Archive for 2010

Christmas Trees at Martin’s Yard & Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on December 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

We have talked in the past how, in our family, Christmas is a season of cherished family traditions and memories. Christmas is a time for family, friends, and sharing, be it as simple as a kind word, a Christmas card or note, or a box of home-made cookies. Selecting the family Christmas Tree, is also, one of those family events that is very special.

We have had many varieties of live trees, cut trees, and now even a few artificial ones. Our trees have had short needles, long needles, and everything between. Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular, although not in our home. Table top trees and half trees, ideal for the small home or apartment, have become very popular in the past few years. We hang a four foot half fake tree on our wall in the familyroom to save space.

Some of the evergreens we have used as Christmas Trees are:

While I do not think we have ever had a bad Christmas Tree, the species we recommend are the Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, and Concolor Fir. We tried a Black Hills Spruce this season and were very happy with it’s shape and structure.

Whatever species of tree you choose, make the selection a happy time, even your failures can bring fond memories. We still laugh about the tree we bought, when we were first married, that would not fit up the stairs to our top story apartment. We ended up throwing a rope out the front window and pulling it up. You can even make disposing of the tree an event. We decorate our old trees with treats for the birds and even use our retired fake trees as part of our outdoor decorations.

Tips of the Month

  • Always refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the butt and immediately place in water.
  • Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least one gallon of water, more preferably.
  • You should expect the new tree to take up additional half gallon of water daily.
  • Always keep the base of a tree in water. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. You will have to remove the tree and cut again.
  • You do not need anything other than regular tap water, commercially prepared mixes like aspirin, sugar and other additives introduce into the water are not necessary.
  • If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location just place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket of water.
  • Using miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree.
  • Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand as the outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water.
  • Fresh cut trees should last at least five weeks before drying out, some species even longer.
  • Keep trees away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, and direct sunlight.
  • Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process.
  • The temperature of the water used is not important and does not affect water uptake.

Flower of the Month

Picea glauca var. densata ‘Black Hills Spruce’

It is a ornamental evergreen with a deep dark green color and dense growth pattern. It is a truly cold adapted tree and is very resistant to winter injury. It prefers rich moist soil in full sun, and also thrives in dry, well-drained sites. This evergreen conifer tree has a medium growth rate and requires little, if any, pruning. Deer dislike Black Hills Spruce. This tree is commonly used for windbreaks, privacy screens and accent plantings. It will reach a height of six feet in nine years on a good site.

Web Site of the Month

The National Christmas Tree Association

They represent the Christmas Tree Professionals and promoting the use of Real Christmas Trees. More than 5,100 professionals support NCTA programs through membership; participation. This site has a lot of useful information and links to help you select the tree that best suits your needs.

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Trees We Wish We Had

Icon Written by Wayne on November 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

We have never seen a tree that we did not like. There is probably one out there but we have yet to find it. We continually see trees that we “ just have to have” in our garden which leads us into this months Yard Talk. Since we cannot physically grow all of these trees lets at least talk about the ones we wish we had.

303Cinnamomum camphora ”Camphor Tree or Gum Camphor” is a dense broad leaved evergreen that is capable of growing 50-150 feet tall and spreading twice that wide with a trunk up to 15 feet in diameter. Camphor is widely planted as a shade tree, screen, or windbreak and is a sturdy storm resistant tree. The shiny foliage is made up of alternate 1-4 inch oval leaves dangling from long petioles. Each leaf has three distinct yellowish veins. The outer margins of the leaves tend to be somewhat wavy and turn upward. The new foliage starts out a rusty burgundy color, but the leaves soon turn dark green on the upper sides and paler green underneath. Camphor tree can be readily identified by the distinctive odor of a crushed leaf. Camphor tree also is a larval food source for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Unfortunately, these desirable traits are offset by the tree’s invasiveness and damaging effects on wildlife and natural communities. It has been shown to cause sterility in birds.

177Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’ Golden Chain Tree has 18-24 inch racemes of golden yellow flowers, resembling Wisteria, transform this Golden Chain Tree into a sparkling cascade. This is one of the best choices for smaller gardens. Magnificent in bloom and handsome all season long with its smooth, bright green bark and lower leaf foliage, this cultivar was selected for its dense habit and extra long flower clusters. Vossii is easily grown in a sheltered position with afternoon shade and well-drained soil. This tree dislikes fertilizer, generating its own nitrogen, and it will do well in poor, dry soil. Do not plant where young children can eat the poisonous seeds.

king palmArchontophoenix cunninghamiana ‘King Palm’ has a dramatic effect on large gardens with its single trunk, pinnate frond leaf type 8 – 10 feet in size. Green above gray beneath, each frond is attached to long trunk shaft with dead fronds dropping off on their own.
The base of the petioles form a greenish-yellow to brown crown-shaft that the leaves rarely droop below. The trunk is smooth and ringed with noticeable leaf scars. Flowers are formed below the crown-shaft with the creamy flower stalks holding mauve flowers. The round green fruit, about 1/2 inch in diameter, turn bright red at maturity. There is often a noticeable bulge in the crown-shaft before the flowers emerge which gives the tree a “pregnant” look.

Some trees we just must dream about! In retrospect we guess this is what makes visiting other parts of the country so much more special.

Tips of the Month

Following are some things to consider when choosing a tree for your home.

  • Choose a location, be sure that the location you choose has plenty of room for the tree’s roots to grow.
  • Do you want fine leaves, such as on willow trees or do you prefer bold, broad leaves, such as on maple trees?
  • While fast-growing shade trees deliver shade quickly, shade trees that grow more slowly may last quite a bit longer.
  • Flower and fruit-bearing trees provide beauty, they also require more maintenance.
  • If you prefer a low-maintenance tree, choose one accordingly.
  • Consider buying an older tree, and then transplant it to your yard.
  • Will leaves need to be raked and disposed of?
  • Where and at what time of day will the shade be cast?
  • Are there any obstructions overhead that your trees grow into?
  • How does the location of your tree affect the energy needs of surrounding buildings? Does it provide a windbreak or sun block to reduce energy needs?

What size of tree, shape of the mature canopy, and any other implications for your site all require research on your part before you commit to a variety of tree. Take your time for you are choosing a living plant and making a long term commitment. If you select wrong, you are spelling doom for a living organism.

Flower of the Month


Samanea saman Monkey Pod Tree or Raintree

It is a fast-growing tree that has been introduced to many tropical countries throughout the world from its native habitats in Central America and northern South America. Although generally planted as a shade tree and ornamental, it has been naturalized in many countries and is greatly valued in pastures as shade for cattle. A spreading crown, when grown in the open characterizes this beautiful tree, it forms a long, relatively straight stem when closely spaced. Its wood is highly valued in some locations for carvings and furniture.

Web Site of the Month

The Greenwood Nursery Internet Store

They are part of a family owned and operated wholesale nursery and plant farm. They are located in middle Tennessee in the small city of McMinnville. It all started almost thirty years ago when they planted their first seeds and shrub cuttings. Today, Greenwood Nursery is still dedicated to servicing the needs of their clients. Not only do they ship to their customers, Greenwood Nursery is also a plant fulfillment center for major catalog houses. With resources across the country, we can locate just about any plant material.

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Hostas as Potted Plants

Icon Written by Wayne on October 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

One question we are asked often is if you can grow hostas as container plants? The answers is sure, why not. Hostas can be successfully grown in any well drained container. We have a number of potted hostas in our home gardens, sometimes for the visual appeal but more often because we have no where else to put them.

The advantage is that containers make your hostas portable, have pot will travel so to speak. Be sure to provide soil with adequate drainage, we prefer compost, so the roots do not rot. If compost is not available you will want to make sure the planting soil you use has some form of time release fertilizer included or added, since watering frequently leaches nutrients,

The containers need to be large enough to allow for root and plant growth. Potted hostas should have enough holes to ensure good drainage. The holes themselves should be covered with rocks, wire screening, or porous matter so that the growing mix does not slip through the drainage holes. Since we always seem to have several broken clay pots lying around we use these shards. As hostas grow larger, they should be transplanted into larger pots to prevent them from becoming root-bound.

Containers cannot be left outdoors for the winter or the plants will rot. In winter the containers should be placed in a location away from overhead moisture. An unheated garage works for us. Ideally, hostas should be kept at 30 to 40 degrees during winter months. When plants begin to grow in the Spring, they should not be placed outside until danger of frost has passed. You can put them outside during the day, or when temperatures are above freezing, but the plants should be brought in if frost is forecast.

We find it much simpler to replant our potted hosta back into the ground in the Fall. Sometimes we bury the entire pot in the ground, this way the plant is ready to go the following spring without experiencing transplant shock.

So go ahead be creative with your hostas, just keep the drainage good and the pots well watered. Have fun, this is what gardenning is all about.

Tips of the Month

We are often asked what should we do if we cannot plant our order immediately? What we do when we receive a hosta order when it is difficult or inconvenient for us to plant we simply refrigerate them. Unwrap the plants to determine if the roots are still moist, they are, rewrap them and refrigerate. If the roots are dry soak them for a few hours and re-wrap them being careful to make sure they are just damp and not soggy. The length of time you may successfully refrigerate hostas is directly related to how far the leaves have emerged. If the hosta leaves are just starting to emerge they may be stored for several weeks. If the foliage is more mature you’ll have to plant them after a few days.

Flower of the Month


Hosta Hybrid ‘Sagae’

It is an upright, vase-shaped, large hosta with a satiny blue-grey leaf and a very wide creamy border, remains the finest and most dramatic variegated hosta ever introduced! The pale lavender flowers top the 6 foot wide clump on 60 inch scapes in summer. We have grown this variety for a number of years and it still amazes us with is steady performance..

Web Site of the Month

Plant Delights Nursery

A mail order firm specializing in unusual perennials. The on-line catalog features an amazing number of perennials, including a wide variety natives plants. They have a special focus on “ amorphophallus, arisaema, asarum, cannas, crinum lilies, epimediums, ferns, hardy palms, hardy ginger lilies, helleborus, heuchera, hosta, lobelia, ornamental grasses, pulmonaria, solomon’s seal, tiarella, verbena, and zephyranthes”. We have been purchasing from them for a number of years and have never been disappointed.

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Dividing and Transplanting Perennials in Fall

Icon Written by Wayne on September 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

August and September is a great month for dividing and transplanting. The heat of summer has hopefully passed and there is still plenty of time for plants to recover from being moved before the cold winter weather sets in. The normal Fall rains, will also allow the plants to become established.

The rule of thumb for deciding which perennials to transplant or divide is based on bloom time. Late Summer and Fall bloomers are suited for moving in the Spring while Spring and Early Summer flowering perennials can be transplanted in Fall. Some Spring flowering perennials are lungworts, primroses, epimedium, peonies and hostas may be divided and transplanted at this time of the year.

Transplanting or dividing can be motivated by the desire to change the look of your garden or plants that are just not doing well and need a change. There are several signs that can tell you it is time to divide a perennial such as when it does not bloom as well or the blooms are smaller and when the center of the plant starts to look kind of raggedy. Other signs, are when a plant flops over and requires support, or has grown beyond its bed or container.

Perennials can be divided just to create new plants for other parts of the garden or to share with friends. Perennials can provide an ongoing source of new plants. Careful division and re-planting can be a lot of fun too!

Tips of the Month

The first step in properly dividing and transplanting perennials starts with the digging of the plant that is to be divided.

  1. Dig out far enough from the plant to get all the roots without breaking or damaging them.
  2. Shake off the soil that clings to the roots carefully so as not to damage the roots of the plant.
  3. If you are dividing the plant, separate the crowns by simply pulling them apart or cutting them with a sharp knife or shovel. Remove any unhealthy or dead parts of the plant.
  4. Try to preserve as many of the roots as possible.
  5. Keep newly dug and or divided plants protected, if you cannot transplant them the same day, place them in the shade and cover with wet newspapers ora damp rag.
  6. Plant each division into well-prepared soil that has good drainage.
  7. Reset each division at exactly the same depth it was originally planted.
  8. Water the plant until a hard freeze.
  9. Once the ground freezes, apply a layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture.

Flower of the Month


Phlox paniculata ‘David’

it is a fragrant white-flowering garden Phlox that does not get mildew. This is a sturdy upright plant, does not need staking. A very steady performer in our garden where we use it as a backdrop for the Floribunda Rose Impatien. Known for its powdery mildew resistance, has been named the 2002 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

Web Site of the Month

P. Allen Smith

They are an award-winning garden designer and host of the public television program, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and the syndicated 30-minute show P. Allen Smith Gardens. He has emerged as America’s most recognized and respected garden design expert, providing ideas and inspiration through multiple media venues. We wait impatiently each week for his newsletter.

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iPhone in the Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on August 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

Gardening information and information sharing has come a long way in a very short time. It use to be that the only way to share information was to write, telephone, or meet in person. Any search for additional information, called for a trip to the local library or university library. The high speed, electronic age of today has changed all that.

The computer and internet has put a wealth of information at the home-gardeners finger tips. What once took hours and days of research, could be found in minutes by anyone.

Garden societies around the world can now share information with each other instantly though emails, on line chatting, and blogging. University’s data basis are now open to anyone who has a computer and on line connections. Todays laptops has made this information even more portable as you can bring the computer to the garden.

Even more so is the freedom Apple’s IPhone brings to the garden. Now with your telephone you can look up information, take pictures, talk and text information to your friends, and even research plants and plant cultures as you work in the garden.

With over 85,000 apps on the IPhone you can find out anything you want in seconds, Want to know what that bug is eating your lilly or why your hosta looks sick? The answer is just a touch away. The world is truly in your palm.

Below are a couple apps we recommend:

  • Botany Buddy Apps is a tree and shrub finder, ideal for identifying plants in the field and selecting plants for a yard. This app is a collaboration of a veteran landscape designer and lifelong gardener, an innovative and creative technology team and a lifelong educator from Oregon State University. Botany Buddy is committed to building a growing community by providing them with online and mobile applications to bring users together with each other and the information they need to succeed. The app makes it easy to share images with as many “Botany Buddies” as you like. It is also great for home enthusiasts, nature lovers and garden clubs as well.
  • Garden Plants Database has over one thousand common garden plant names with detailed descriptions covering many common groups. This is an excellent pocket reference for farmers and gardeners, or anyone who is interested in learning more about gardening and plants. This app is a photo-based application showing a wide variety of garden plants, trees, and herbs, with horticultural and gardening tips. This application includes an advanced search for all garden plants. The top 150 plants are returned by the search engine. If you need a more finely-tuned search, simply add more terms into the search field. If you find plant data that needs revision, you can edit it using your on-screen keypad, or add your own interesting gardening data. You can also rate garden plants on a 5-star system. Once rated, the plant is much easier to access later since you can just tap on the “Top Rated” button in the “More” section at the bottom of the screen. It is truly amazing how far we have come in just a short time. Of course, this is only the beginning.
  • Landscaper’s Companion is your reference guide to trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, and all sorts of plants. Contains information for over 1400 plants and 5700 pictures. The only complaint is you can not save any to your favorites or what is in your landscape.

Tips of the Month

Here area few other Apps that we found to be useful:

  • Botanical Interests at Botanical Interests, our goal is to inspire and educate so that you can create beautiful and successful gardens. This application is designed to help you achieve that goal!
  • Lacavore iPhone app will come in handy next time you’re at the market and want to know what’s actually being grown near you, and what is most likely to taste the best right now.
  • iGarden helps you plan and track your personal vegetable garden by providing you recommended planting dates for your specific climate zone. It also provides recommendations on how you should plant the seeds. Once your garden has been planted, you can use the garden tracker to measure your garden’s progress and prepare for harvest via the estimated harvest date.

Flower of the Month


Phoenix roebelenii ‘Pygmy Date Palm’

Feather Palm Small to medium sized palm, although older plants can be quite tall. Has very attractive dark green feather leaves, and spined petioles. Not self cleaning, so old fronds need to be manually removed. Moderate growth rate, single trunk. Pygmy date palm excels in containers of all kinds. Also looks great by patios and entry ways. Use clumps of these palms as specimens and to serve as focal point in a mass planting of annuals. Also nice combined with evergreen shrubs in a mixed hedge.

Web Site of the Month

Apps for iPhone

They are like nothing you have ever seen on a mobile phone. Explore some of our favorite apps here and see how they allow iPhone to do even more. Let them become your gardening partner.

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Taro in the Northern Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on July 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

taro-leafTaro, is widely grown in the tropics for food. In Hawaii, Taro is usually grown in pond fields, known as loʻi where the cool, flowing water yields the best crop of edible corms. The edible tubers are used in Poi and the young shoots are blanched and used as a winter vegetable.

Although, native to tropical Asia and Polynesia, Colocasia has given us lots of pleasure all Summer. With its huge, velvet or glossy, dark green, heart-shaped leaves lined with darker veins, Taro adds real drama to our shade garden.

We grow them in containers with little thought given to eating the stems or beating their roots to a pulp to make something that taste like bland wallpaper paste. Taro really work well around a garden structure or up against a stone wall. We like to use them with banana trees and potted palms.


Tips of the Month

Taro is best grown in fertile, organically rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Full sun generally brings out the best leaf color. However, in the hot dry Summers the plants appear to do best in part shade. When growing plants in garden soils, provide regular moisture, especially during dry summer periods, and do not allow soils to dry out.

Plants may also be grown as pond marginals in up to 4-6 inches of standing water. These plants produce prodigious amounts of growth and appreciate weekly fertilization during the growing season.

Tubers may be left in the ground year-round in Zones 8-10. In Michigan, however, tubers should be planted in the ground in mid-spring dug up in fall after first frost and then overwintered in a cool dry place. We have had excellent luck planting taro in containers and just moving these in when Winter approaches along with our other houseplants. Plants grown in containers need to be re-potted on a yearly basis or at the end of the growing season.


Flower of the Month


Colocasia esculenta “Midnight“

It has the darkest leaves of any colocasia we have grown. Native to tropical Asia and Polynesia where it is considered an evergreen perennial tuberous herb. It enjoys part sun and in our garden has grown to over three feet tall. A very hardy plant but not hardy enough to withstand our Michigan Winters. A wonderful addition to the tropical garden we use it with Sago Palms and Musa velutina, the Pink Velvet Banana. It is also spectacular as a sturdy backdrop for perennials in the flower border. Excellent for water gardens when planted in a pot submerged in the pond.


Featured Web Site


Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

They are a third generation bulb grower and hybridizers of daffodils in Gloucester, Virginia. They are launching a new specialty mail-order flower bulb business, via the internet, where we are offering selections of the bulbs, some old favorites and new introductions.

They are creating display gardens and hope to create an educational foundation in which we can help educate school groups, Master Gardener groups or the general public about the ways to incorporate and grow bulbs amongst other perennials, annuals and woody plants. They are excited about their ideas and dreams and we look forward to pursuing them and sharing our experience with you.

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Wildflower Gardening for Wildlife

Icon Written by Wayne on June 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

DeerWildflower Gardening is a must for those gardeners interested in attracting wildlife. Whether your interest lies with butterflies, moths, birds or other critters the surest way to attract them into your gardens is by planting what is familiar to them. No self respecting White-Tailed Deer would be caught dead in a bamboo cane break. Also you would not find many American Bullfrogs feeding on insects in a sunny cacti garden. If you provide wildlife with the right food and shelter they will come.

Some gardeners worry about wildlife doing damage to their plants. Unfortunately, many uninformed gardeners actually go to great lengths to discourage natures critters. We have found that if you provide plants that wildlife naturally feed on, they will do little damage to your other garden plants. Sure you might have a few plants nibbled on, particularly in times of stress, but this is a small price to pay for having wildlife around.

Last Spring we were fortunate to have twin White-tailed Deer born in our wetland area. We watched the “twins” grow from cute little spotted fawns to full size deer through the Summer. Some of our plants became a little tattered from their nibbling and we definitely did not have to cut back our roses in the Fall, but what fun we had watching them grow up. We would not have traded the experience for all the plants in our gardens.

MonarchSimilarly, the Monarch Butterfly larva can eat a lot of Pink Swamp Milkweed foliage, but what wonder it is to watch an adult emerge from its Chrysalis. We are only too happy to see butterfly and moth larva feeding on our wildflowers as we know soon adults will be drifting about laying more eggs for the next generation.

file3How we remember the times when pesticides were so over used that it was rare to see any butterflies and moths. Fortunately, today we realize how important all of natures creatures are and how they interact with each other. Knowledgeable gardeners now plant to encourage their presents, and why not, what would gardening be without them.

Fortunately Wildflower Gardening has enjoyed an increase in popularity as gardeners have discovered their importance and how to use them effectively. Wildflowers are not only finding their way into the traditional garden but, are being used increasingly as a replacement for the traditional lawn, all but eliminating mowing. States are turning to wildflowers along highways to reduce maintenance costs. While large well groomed lawns and roadsides may be attractive to some, they are actually a very barren natural environment.

Successful urban wildflower gardening requires careful planning, soil preparation, and seeding. Pick your site carefully. Make sure that the area receives plenty sunlight, 6-8 hours for most wild plants. Usually site preparation will take one to two years using a combination of cultivation and herbicide applications to eliminate existing growth, roots, and weed seeds.

Your task will be made easier if you choose a site that does not border areas of aggressive weedy plants. You will also have to allow for the soil type in site selection. For example, many plants hate heavy clay soils while others cannot stand to have their feet wet.

Select a variety of wildflowers including some of our native grasses. You want to have a variety, not only for color but to maintain bio-diversity. By providing plants occupying different parts of the soil, you help insure that wildflowers will squeeze out competing weeds. This is one of the secrets to having a low maintenance garden.

file11While wildfowers have become more widely available today, do not expect to buy a packet of seeds at the corner drugstore, sprinkle them around, and magically have a field of flowers. By all means avoid buying seed at your local nursery unless you know that they specialize in wildflower gardening. Most pre-packaged seeds are not worth the effort to plant. It might be nostalgic to use “North Manitou Island Wildflowers” or “Yellowstone’s Buffalo Blend”, but the chances of the seeds growing into something beautiful are slim.

Make your seed selection carefully. Look not only for flower type but also purity of seed. We recommend using nothing less then 95% pure seeds. We strongly suggest that you visit Prairie Nursery and Wildseed Farms web sites before starting. Both sites have a tremendous amount of helpful information on site selection, preparation, and plant selection. Both sell top quality seeds that the home gardener can depend on.

With a little planning and some up-front work, you too can have something that will last for years with little maintenance. We consider wildflowers just that, native plants for the wildlife to enjoy. Hopefully, we all have had our enjoyment out of them. If they are tattered, worm eaten, and grazed over by the end of the season it really does not matter. The butterflies, birds, and other wildlife will love you too. We know that the “Twins” sure loved our roses.


Tips of the Month

Wildflowers come in many shapes and colors, what is found growing in one part of the word as wild is probably being cultivated somewhere else. Many of our native plants have made the jump from being called weeds to being nurtured as prize specimen plants. Probably this is not better illustrated than the life of our native prairie Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susan. We recommend the following plants, all of which can be found in our Plant Data Base:

  1. Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower blooms in early summer, 2-3 inch, pale-lavender, slender ray flowers droop gracefully on this lance-leaved prairie native.
  2. Echinacea pupurea Rubinstern is a medium tall coneflower with glowing red flowers with horizontal petals on robust plants. Stands out immediately when first seen.
  3. Echinacea purpurea Fragrant Angel is a white coneflower that others can only aspire to. Grows just like ‘Ruby Giant’, with large, fragrant, and horizontal flowers with layered, overlapping petals and huge yellow cones.
  4. Echinacea purpurea Magnus is a native found in open woods and on prairies. It grows to three feet in height and has long stiff stems with one large cone with showy purple ray flowers.
  5. Echinacea purpurea Art’s Pride is a coneflower comes from the breeding program of Dr. Jim Ault of the Chicago Botanic Garden. The lack of summer orange in the garden has been cured. Each two foot wide clump of slender green foliage is topped starting in late June and continuing through the summer with spikes of rustic-orange flowers.
  6. Echinacea simulata Glade Coneflower or Wavyleaf Purple Coneflower is a very showy coneflower with long stalks and long drooping dark pink petals around a dark brown, dome shaped central disk.
  7. Rudbeckia grandfloria Black-Eyed Susan has long-stalked leaves, hairy stems, robust form and gold daisies with dark eyes are characteristics of this drought-tolerant species.
  8. Rudbeckia laciniata Herbstonne is a delightful plant with drooping warm yellow petals relaxing around a green central disc. A large plant that really stands out when in full bloom.
  9. Echinacea purpurea Kim’s Mop Head is single, white-flowered selection with a greenish disc. The “mop head” description refers to the petals that are fringed . This compact selection makes a great addition to the front of sunny borders, and glows along paths in the evening garden.


Flower of the Month


Rudbeckia amplexicaulis Clasping Coneflower

A hardy annual native to the southeastern United States, and has naturalized throughout most of North America. The identifiable black, cone-shaped heads are surrounded by bright yellow, drooping reflexed ray flowers. Often forms dense colonies in moist areas. A very heavy reseeder.


Featured Web Site

Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers

It is a site for and about wildflowers native to the Midwest. Beautiful Native Wild Flowers for Home Landscaping and Prairie Restoration can be found here. Seed for wild flowers that are easy to grow, resistant to drought and pests, and provide unlimited pleasure by attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and other critters. This site has loads of information, photos, and resources for the home gardener

Our Favorite Peony “The Intersectional”

Icon Written by Wayne on May 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

Last Summer we planted our first intersectional peony and fell in love with it immediately. Intersectional peonies are supremely satisfying plants – breathtakingly beautiful, rugged, deer proof, drought tolerant, and trouble free. The intersectional peony is a stunning hybrid that goes dormant to ground level and buds like a herbaceous peony but has flowers and foliage like a tree peony. The foliage is robust and pointed at the leaf tips, rather like the tree peony, and develop slightly woody stems towards the end of the growing season.

Intersectional peonies are the result of crossing two different species of peony, the tree peony and the herbaceous peony. The resulting plants combine the best qualities of their parents. They are vigorous growers, growing anywhere the herbaceous peonies are grown. Strong, sturdy stems hold the flowers upright, with most flowers reaching up to ten inches across. These new peonies offer vibrant colors unavailable before in the peony family. The foliage stays green and lush until frost when it can be cut down to the ground where they will grow next spring from underground eyes.

The first crosses produced a whole new group of bright yellow flowered peonies that the home gardener had wanted for years. Today, hybridizers have created new intersectional peonies in other colors including pink, orange tones, striped, splashed, flared patterns and varieties that change color from dark pink to yellow as the flower ages. The flowers tend toward semi-double and many are fragrant. Often they have more than one bud per stem. The blooms greatly resemble those of the woody parent, many of them being double. The flowers do not fall over in the rain like herbaceous peonies, and their opening is staggered over a six week period.

Summer care is minimal for your intersectional peony. Water dry periods of the growing season. Fertilize with a balanced time release fertilizer. Avoid late fall applications of fertilizer. Remove spent blooms.

More difficult to propagate than herbaceous peonies, intersectional peonies can be still hard to find. Propagation of named cultivars is typically by crown division. Grafting of above ground stems as one would do with woody peonies, and grafting of below ground buds have both proven successful. As more growers discover the merits of these plants it will become easier for the home gardener to enjoy them.


Tips of the Month

Intersectional peonies are easy to grow and hardy to at least zone 4. They survive our frigid Michigan winters just fine. These peonies will grow anywhere herbaceous peonies will grow. When planting consider the following:

  1. Intersectional peonies grow best in full sun in fertile well-drained soil. We recommend at least 8 hours of sunlight.
  2. Keep in mind these plants live for decades and can grow up to 4 feet across.
  3. After selecting your site, we recommend you amend your soil. Prepare a soil mixture using: two parts top soil, two parts compost, and one part peat moss. Good drainage is very important.
  4. Dig a hole two feet deep and two feet across. Place your root so that the crown is 3 to 4 inches below the soil level. Fan the roots out while adding soil. Firm the ground as you go. Once you have completely filled in the hole, water your peony thoroughly enough to settle the soil.
  5. Mulch with straw-type mulch or wood chips. Leaves are not recommended because they tend to matte down. The main function of mulch is to keep your peony root from thawing and refreezing during the winter season.
  6. Never allow the newly planted specimen to dry out. Remove any competitive weeds near peonies to help with moisture.
  7. A slow release balanced fertilizer should be added at planting time to ensure rapid root development.
  8. Probably the most important thing to remember is the importance of site selection. Always remember that this plant is very long lived!


Flower of the Month

bartzellaPaeonia ‘Bartzella’ (Bartzella Intersectional Peony)
Paeonia ‘Bartzella’ is the Rolls Royce of peonies. This stunning hybrid goes dormant to ground level and buds like a herbaceous peony but has flowers and foliage like a tree peony. Developed by peony breeder Roger Anderson of Wisconsin, established clumps can reach three feet tall and three feet wide with up to eighty, nine inch wide, fully double yellow flowers. The flowers do not fall over in the rain like herbaceous peonies, and their opening is staggered over a six week period.

Intersectional peonies make excellent cut flowers. They can be cut anytime after the bud is soft like a fresh marshmallow. For best results, place the flowers in fresh water immediately after cutting. You can cut the flowers as long as you like as long as you leave the lowest branch stem on the plant. You should not cut more than 1/3 of the total stems so the plant has enough leaves to re-grow for next year.


Web Site of the Month

Adelman Peony Gardens
They grow a large collection of peonies covering about nine acres near Salem, Oregon. Adelman’s have more than 160 varieties for sale in our online store. Their goal is to give a customer a wide selection of select peonies not found anywhere else. The most recent excitement at Adelman’s is intersectional peonies, produced by crossing tree peonies with bush peonies, resulting in exciting new colors and outstanding plant habit. They ship bare-root peonies to customers across the country in the Fall.

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Landscape Mulches Revisited

Icon Written by Wayne on April 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

For the home gardener probably the most important task they can perform each Spring, is applying a good mulch to their garden. This one project, if for no other reason than the time it will save you, will lift your garden to the next level. We have talked about this before, but we just cannot stress it enough, mulch, mulch, and more mulch.

Why should we mulch? In the first place, itis a good conservation practice. Thick mulch helps prevent loss of top soil from wind and water erosion. Mulching reduces soil compaction, decreases water loss from the soil through evaporation, and lessens soil temperature fluctuations. Mulch tempers the effects of heat and cold. In the winter months the soil in a garden heaves between the combined effects of freezing, thawing and then refreezing, which also can damage plants and shrubs.

Organic mulch decomposes and becomes part of the soil, improving drainage, organic content, and texture. Microbes work by the millions to break down the organic matter and turn it into humus, this buffers the soil pH and improves the soil. A continuous supply of mulch means the bacterial and fungal activity can crowd out the bad stuff. Mulching enriches and protects soil thus, helping to provide a better growing environment.

Organic mulch is also important from the visual perspective. How others see our garden is very important to most gardeners. Mulch keeps our gardens neat and trim. Mulch is useful for weed suppression and control. We would apply mulch for this reason alone. In this day and age who has time to weed?

Mulch comes in a variety of colors and textures to meet your needs. Gone are the days of wood chips and pine bark. Many companies now offer wood and bark chips that have been colorized to match a gardens decor. Colleges and universities now have their landscape areas mulched to match their “school colors. As we said before, ” What true Nebraska “Husker” Fan would be without his or her own perennial bed mulched in red and white.

Inorganic mulch like rubber mulch, stones, black plastic and landscape fabric are also useful tools. Stones and marble chips do the same job as organic mulches. They lend a more formal look to a landscape and help prevent weeds. While inorganic mulches have their place in the garden, they lack the soil improving properties of organic mulches. We have found that the use of plastic sheeting or landscape fabric is in most cases a waste of time and money as weeds quickly grow on top of it. An inorganic mulch may also be difficult to remove if you decide to change your garden plans later.

In choosing a mulch, consider first what is available in your area. The best place to look at different types of mulch is at a garden center. A mulch with course particles remains loose and lasts longer so it’s a better choice. A mulch with fine particles can become compacted and will decompose faster.

Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial tools you can use in the garden. So get out there and mulch.


Tips of the Month

Our favorite mulch is 100% pure shredded sawmill bark that has been double ground. This has excellent uniform texture, color, and decomposition rate plus we like how it sets off our plants. A shredded double ground hardwood mulch with bark would be our second choice. We try to avoid soft woods and fruit woods because, as a rule, they contain a lot of resins.

Mulch, provides an insulating barrier between the soil and the air thus moderating the soil temperature. This means that a mulched soil in the Summer will be cooler than an un-mulched soil. If you are using mulches in your perennial garden, it is best to apply them after the soil has warmed up in the spring. Also, wait until the soil has warmed completely in the Spring to add additional mulch to existing perennial beds.

In the winter, the mulched soil may not freeze as deeply as unprotected soil. Mulches used to help with winter temperatures, can be applied late in the fall after the ground has frozen. Applying mulches before the ground has frozen may attract rodents looking for a warm Winter home.

Types of mulch:

  1. Bark chips – biodegradable, apply 2-3 inches. Advantages: Attractive, good for permanent mulch, and reusable. Disadvantages: May hinder water penetration. Decomposes slowly unless composted first.
  2. Brick chips – will not decompose, apply 2-3 inches. Advantages: Cheaper than stone mulch and non-flammable. Disadvantages: Not readily available, high moisture retention, and no organic matter added.
  3. Compost – biodegradable, apply 1-2 inches. Advantages: Contributes nutrients, turns quickly to humus. Disadvantages: Needs heating period to kill off weed seeds and diseases and may have unpleasant odor.
  4. Corncobs and cornstalks – biodegradable, apply 3-4 inches. Advantages: Readily available in most areas and good weed control. Disadvantages: Water cannot penetrate well and may generate heat.
  5. Cottonseed hulls – biodegradable, apply 2-4 inches. Advantages: Fertilizing value similar cottonseed meal. Disadvantages: Very light, wind scatters.
  6. Grass clippings – biodegradable, apply 2-3 inches. Advantages: Improves soil by adding organic matter. Disadvantages: Absorbent, may carry weed seed.
  7. Hay – biodegradable, apply 4-6 inches. Advantages: Legume hays (alfalfa) add nitrogen. Disadvantages: First cut hay full of weed seeds and offers poor weed control.
  8. Leaves – biodegradable, apply 2-3 inches. Advantages: Contain many trace minerals, best food for earthworms. Disadvantages: May become soggy and pack, hindering water penetration.
  9. Paper – biodegradable, apply 5-6 pages or 4-6 inches, shredded. Advantages: May add trace minerals, decomposes readily. Disadvantages: May pack and hinder water penetration.
  10. Peanut hulls – biodegradable, apply 2-3 inches. Advantages: Adds nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and decomposes rapidly. Disadvantages: Not readily available in North.
  11. Peat moss – biodegradable, apply 3-5 inches. Advantages: Clean and free of weed seeds and improves water retention when tilled into sandy soil. Disadvantages: Extremely absorbent, water penetration hindered and expensive.
  12. Pine needles – biodegradable, apply 3-4 inches. Advantages: Light, usually free of weed seeds, absorbs little moisture nor does it pack. Disadvantages: Decomposes very slowly.
  13. Polyethylene – will not decompose, apply one layer. Advantages: Retains but absorbs no moisture, black is effective weed control. Disadvantages: Weeds grow under clear plastic and rain will not go through easily.
  14. Rock – crushed gravel or marble chips, will not decompose, apply 1-2 inches. Advantages: Relatively inexpensive, not absorbent, water penetrates, and non-flammable. Disadvantages: Poor weed control and adds no organic matter to soil.
  15. Salt marsh hay – biodegradable, apply 4-6 inches. Advantages: Usually weed-free; available in marshy areas or along coast, very long lasting. Disadvantages: Not available to everyone. Expensive if purchased.
  16. Straw – biodegradable, apply 4-6 inches. Advantages: Adds nutrients and lightens soil when tilled under. Disadvantages: Can be a fire hazard.
  17. Vermiculite or perlite – will not decompose, apply 1-2 inches. Advantages: Totally sterile, so will not carry disease and no weed seeds. Disadvantages: Expensive, very light; scatters, and hinders water penetration.
  18. Cocoa bean shells – biodegradable, apply 4-6 inches. Advantages: attractive color and smell. Disadvantages: Poor water retention, will float out in heavy rains, and makes you want to eat a chocolate bar.
  19. Rubber mulch– is better then any other mulch available in the market today for use in playground areas. Its durability, elasticity, and non-moisture absorbent are some characteristics making it suitable for almost any purpose.


Flower of the Month

2744370614_b989dbe74dWinter rye Secale cereale , a green manure cover crop, is living mulch that provides organic matter to your garden and protect your valuable soil. It a has high cold tolerance, moderate to high shade and drought tolerance and is fast to establish. It prefers a slightly acid soil and sandy loam to loam soil type. Rye grows very tall and plant residues have a high C:N ratio. Because of its cold tolerance, it is the best choice for late fall plantings, providing excellent winter erosion control and removing excess soil nutrients.
In the spring, you will want to turn the cover in at least two weeks before you plan to work the area. This can be done by rote-tilling, plowing, or using a spading fork if the area is small. It is often helpful to mow the crop before tilling. The nitrogen held in the Green Manure’s tissue will now be available to future crops through decomposition.


Web Site of the Month

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
They are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are a non-profit membership organization founded in 1827 to encourage and advance horticultural interests. Their Green Scenes Magazine is an excellent publication. Their Yearly Gold Medal Plant awards it often underused but exceptional plants is very useful to the discriminating gardener.

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The Hawaiian Lei Flower

Icon Written by Wayne on March 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

Plumeria or Lei Flower is the most beautiful flower that you will find in Hawaii. It is used in most leis that are given to visitors as they arrive in Hawaii. It is, however, not native to Hawaii but to Mexico like the Monkey Pod Tree. The flowers are found in colors of white, yellow, pink, red, and multiple pastels. In Hawaii one of the best places to view plumeria is at the Koko Crater Botanical Garden – a 60-acre basin inside Koko Crater on the eastern end of the island of Oahu. 


Plumerias can grow to be large shrubs or even small trees in mild areas like Florida. In tropical regions, Plumeria may reach a height of 40 to 50 feet. Their widely spaced thick succulent branches are round or pointed, and have long leather, fleshy leaves in clusters near the branch tips. Leaves tend to fall in early 

Winter since they are sensitive to cold. Without their leaves and flowers, the trees are very ugly!

p2130054Fortunately, the large leathery leaves appear in Spring and are up to 20 inches long and 3 inches wide depending on species or selection. Medium green and oblong in shape, they are arranged alternately on the squat branches. The leaves cluster at the branch ends where they form the perfect backdrop for the plant’s feature attraction – deliciously fragrant, delicately sculpted flowers.

dsc00986tIn  early Summer through the early Fall months, when very fragrant clusters of showy, waxy flowers appear the real reason for growing Plumerias become apparent. There is absolutely nothing like the sweet fragrance of Plumeria in flower, with fragrances of jasmine, citrus, spices, gardenia, and other indescribable scents. Flowering can last up to 3 months at a time producing new blooms everyday. Once picked, a bloom can last for several days without wilting if kept in water. These flowers are treasured by everyone, young and old and have become a symbol of Hawaii.

For those of us not living in Hawaii or Florida, Plumeria can be grown in containers, making beautiful potted plants for the patio. In milder climates, plumeria can be grown outdoors in the ground, where they make a small beautiful landscape tree. When the temperature, cools, they may be carefully dug up stored over winter in a heated basement or garage where temperatures are kept above freezing. Once the temperatures rise they can be brought out and planted again. We have been told that they will begin to grow as if nothing happened.

For container planting use a coarse, well draining potting soil, similar to what would be used for palm trees. You should consider using a large container on a plant dolly to make the job easier moving indoors as Winter approaches.

Water Plumerias deeply, but infrequently, let soil dry out somewhat before watering again. Begin to reduce the frequency of watering in mid-October, as the cool season approaches. Stop watering after the plant enters its ugly faze and has gone dormant. Resume watering in the Spring as new growth begins.

Plumerias should be fed with a high nitrogen fertilizer beginning in spring when growth begins. To encourage the most blooms, a switch to a high phosphorous fertilizer in early May and fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks through the end of August. Although the branches are muscular in appearance they tend to be weak and easily broken.

In addition to the seven or so Plumeria species, there are dozens of cultivars available that differ in flower color and size and all of them are spectacular. Some of the largest Plumeria collections are actually grown in cold northern climates in greenhouses. The flowers are truly gorgeous and well worth the extra effort.


Tips of the Month

Here is a simple how to list for making your own lei:


Jar of Vaseline

3″ or 4″ Upholstery needle,

4 to 8 Pound Fishing Line or strong thread.

50 to 60 Plumeria Flowers

One 1 Gallon Zip-lock bag

Measuring Tape

1. Gather the flowers early in the morning and for best results use Plumeria flowers that have a thick waxy feel. Flowers that are thick and waxy will keep for two to three days.  

2. If you choose mixed colored flowers string them up in a pattern.

3. Measure and cut the string at about 48 inches.  

4. Thread the string through the needle’s eye, and either pull the string back or crimp it in place with pliers. Tie anything around the other end to keep the flowers from coming off.  

5. Dip the needle in the jar of Vaseline and thread the first flower going into the eye of the flower.  Slide each flower onto the string one at a time so as not to tear the flowers.  Re-dip the needle into the Vaseline as needed.

6 Once you’re finished stringing the flowers, cut the string from the needle and tie the ends.  Then cut off excess string from the knot area.  

7. Place the lei into the one gallon bag with a little water, close the zip-lock part way, then blow into the bag filling it full of air and zip it shut. 

8.  Store the lei in the refrigerator until you want to wear it.


Flower of the Month

cid-41c9623a-9e3e-48f7-b7aa-88239be5bbe3localPlumeria rubra ‘Lei Rainbow’ is a beautiful red to yellow tropical flowering  plant which can be grown in full sun to partial shade. While it is hardy to only zone 11, it can be easily grown as a container plant.

The flowers are very fragrant, attracting bees, butterflies, and even birds.  Ideal for cut flowers and of course leis.


Featured Web Site

The Dean Conklin Plumeria Grove is part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens system.  It is located in  Koko Crater along the eastern side of Oahu. The plumeria trees surround the entrance to the garden and extend along the trail that lead to the crater. The plumeria  trees are planted close to each other which creates a beautiful rainbow effect when they are in bloom. The end of April appears to be a peak flowering time for these trees.  

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