Posts Tagged ‘Flower’

Let’s Eat the Flowers

Icon Written by Wayne on May 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

Many flowers have traditionally been used in many types of cooking. Native American used flowers as food and passed this information on to early settlers. Our ancestors regularly used flowers to flavor vinegars for cooking, marinades, or dressings for salad.

Today, there is a renewed interest in edible flowers. My grandmother regularly fried squash flowers, for me, in light flour batter, under the mistaken idea that it was one of my favorite foods. What we really liked her to do was to freeze mint leaves in ice cubes to suck on during the hot Summer months.

When my son had his herb garden in Nebraska, he introduced us to the flowers of the borage plant. Nothing goes better with sliced tomatoes then a few bright blue borage flowers. They have a sharp clean snappy taste, somewhat like a cucumber, very refreshing. To this day we always have a few borage plants in the garden.

Some flowers can be stuffed or used in stir-fry dishes. Edible flowers can be added to teas for a light refreshing drink. Still others can be crushed and added to cheese spreads, butters, and ice cream.

We suggest you give it a try but do not eat just any old flower, some like the foxglove can kill you. Here are a few that are safe to use:

  • Rose
  • Nasturtium
  • Marigold
  • Pansy
  • Sage
  • Borage
  • Chives

Even edible flowers can cause indigestion or allergic reactions if eaten, so use caution at first.

Tips of the Month

Here is a recipe for dandelion blossoms which my mother made for my dad. These can be sprinkled over a pasta dish or added to a veggie omelet. You can also eat them as a snack.

Fried Dandelion Blooms

1 cup of flour
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, marjoram, sage, paprika
2 dozen large, fresh dandelion blossoms, freshly rinsed and still damp
Cooking oil

Mix flour and all seasonings together in a shallow bowl. Coat the bottom of a fry pan with oil and heat to a medium temperature. It is ready when a bit of flour sizzles up when dropped in. Coat the damp dandelions in the flour mixture, and fry in the oil until golden brown. Turn them as necessary to brown all sides. Remove blossoms from pan and set to drain on paper towels. These taste best when served fresh and hot.

Flower of the Month


Borago officinalis

Borage is a decorative annual with coarse, hairy leaves and stems and beautiful sky-blue flowers in a star shape. The plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall. Borage is easily grown from seed and will sow itself. This plant does best in dry, sunny places. Pick blossoms as they open. Use leaves fresh anytime; they are seldom dried. Bees are attracted to the borage plant. Use sprays of borage flowers and leaves are used to give a cool, cucumber-like flavor to summer drinks. Flowers are excellent eaten raw with tomatoes.

Web Site of the Month

The American Association of Poison Control Centers

They work to support the nation’s 60 poison centers in the valuable work they do. America’s poison centers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you. The Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 serves as a key medical information resource and helps reduce costly emergency room visits

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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

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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The Lobster Claw

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

Lobster Claw

Lobster Claw

My wife’s favorite tropical flower is the Heliconia bihai, better known as the ‘Lobster Claw’ which she first saw at the Allerton National Botanical Gardens on the island of Kauai during our 2005 trip to Ha-waii. This widely cultivated variety grows from 5 to 16 feet high in full sun to light shade. The ones we saw had 4 to 5 banana-like leaves up to 6 feet long, with beautiful, long lasting inflorescences composed of showy bracts which contain the true flowers.

The inflorescence consists of 7 to 12 bracts which are light-to dark red with a yellow edge and a green top. The Lobster Claw is at its best from April to December when it is in full bloom. Individual inflo-rescences last for many weeks, even when cut, making them important for the floral trade. Within the flowers are the pollen-producing stamens and the pollen-receptive stigma on a long style. The pollina-tion is done by hummingbirds and bats, shinny violet seeds form in the bracts.

While hardy to only zones 9-11 they can be grown inside in large containers in colder climates. Being a tropical plant it needs high humidity and a temperature range from 70-85 degrees. Heliconia are an ex-cellent choice for plants that are grown indoors in the Winter and moved outdoors for the Spring and Summer. They do require a well drained growing medium such as a cactus mix. The usual way to propagate is to plant rhizomes, which are horizontal underground stems, in a well draining soil with the very tip protruding out of the soil. Water thoroughly and let dry out somewhat be-tween watering. If kept too wet, there is a good chance they may rot.
Spent flower canes should be cut to the ground. Every few years when the growth slows down, dig the clump out, and divide it. This is also a good time to amend the soil before replanting. They are heavy feeders, feed regularly with palm fertilizer. Except for the fact that they are much more tropical, Helico-nias behave much like Cannas. Once we have mastered growing Sago Palms, Plumairas, and Taro we are going to give the Lobster Claw a try.


Tips of the Month

Heliconia rhizome planting instructions:

  1. Upon receipt of rhizome or bare root plant, carefully unpack, plant quickly not to let rhizomes or roots dry out. Soak bottom 2/3 of rhizome or roots if visible for ½ hour at room temperature.
  2. Plant your rhizome as soon as you receive it using a well draining soil mixture. Do not use soil from your back yard as heavy, dense soils will hold too much water and cause the rhizome to rot. It is very important that your soil is well draining.
  3. After your first time watering we would not water in the future until we find that the surface soil is dry to the touch. It is very important that you do not keep the soil wet.
  4. Heliconia like warm temperatures and bright light to grow strong. An ideal temperature would be 75 degrees with humidity over 50 percent.
  5. The amount of light to provide full sun to 30 percent shade.
  6. Fertilize at least once a month during growing season.
  7. Daily misting of plants is beneficial if grown inside or in dry outdoor environment.


Flower of the Month

Lobster Claw

Lobster Claw

Heliconia bihai “Lobster claw” can be found abundantly in the tropical rain-forest of Hawaii growing to 16 feet tall and has up to five lancelet leaves, 6 feet long each. The bracts are light-to dark red with a yellow edge and a green top.


Web Site

The Allerton Estate and National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Kauai, Hawaii is a garden paradise extending over an area of more than 100 acres. The grounds were the mid-1800s summer cottage of Queen Emma, wife of King Kame-hameha IV, and the former home of Robert & John Allerton. They have been returned to their former glory, as have the surrounding stately gardens. The Allerton Estate is managed by the adjoining National Tropical Botanical Garden, a non-profit organization that conducts guided tours of the estate.


National Tropical Botanical Garden

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New Daffodils in Our Gardens

Icon Written by Wayne on April 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

No other flower heralds the arrival of Spring in Southwestern Lower Michigan like the first blooming daffodil. There are a number of  Spring blooming flowers but the daffodil stands in a class of it’s own. There just is nothing like waking up in the morning with that first cup of coffee in hand and  walking into a garden surrounded by the warm yellow glow provided by early jonquils.

We just cannot use enough daffodils in our gardens. We have them naturalized throughout our woodlands, planted in formal raised beds, scattered amongst the perennials, and even in pots and containers. All 13 divisions are well represented in our gardens. You will find varieties from the large trumpet classics Dutch Master or King Alford down to the petite mini Chit Chat.

While our favorite color is the classic bright yellow of the large cupped Camelot, you will also find the whites and pinks well represented. We use the white, small cupped daffodil, Polar Ice in large numbers mixed with the hellebores . Also, Ambergate, with it’s brick red cup is a real eye catcher along the front walk. Every year a few of the pinks, such as Chinese Carol, find their way into the gardens.

There is just something magical about daffodils. Each Fall you plant all of these ugly brown things in the ground, quickly forget about them, and in the Spring out pops these gorgeous blooms. For, us daffodils provide a never ending Adventure in Wonderland.

Last Fall  we added to our adventure by planting the following varieties in our gardens:



Colblanc – has a pure, snow white flower with a ‘green eye’ that looks like something grown in the tropics. It is 14 to 16 inches tall, a midseason bloomer.

Apricot Lace

Apricot Lace

Apricot Lace – a Brent and Becky original grown seedlings from ‘Palmares’ and  “Jonquilla’, with great qualities of each parent. It blooms in mid-late spring with the flowers being held on 12-18 inch stems.



Avalanche – has 15-20 white petals and a demitasse-shaped cupped, sweetly fragrant flowers on 16 – 18 inch stems, an early to mid season bloomer. 

La Belle

La Belle

La Belle – is little 6-10 inch intermediate flowering daffodil that brightens up the garden in late to mid Spring.



Kaydee – the pinkest of the midseason cyclaminius, its white petals enhance the vivid salmon pink cup, 10-12 inches tall.



Jamestown – a beautiful, late-mid Spring, 14-16 inch tall daffodil that really stands out in the garden.

Barbie Doll

Barbie Doll

Barbie Doll – an intermediate sized mid – Spring daffodil that performs along walks.

Whatever division, color, or size you choose, you will not be disappointed by the daffodil. Make sure you choose several varieties that bloom at different times to insure continually supply of fresh blooms.


Tips of the Month

Daffodils are classified by the The American Daffodil Society into one of the thirteen  divisions described below: 

  • Division 1 – One flower to a stem, trumpet or cup as long or longer than the perianth segments. 
  • Division 2 – One flower to a stem, cup more than one third but less than equal to the length  of the perianth segments. 
  • Division 3 –  Short cup have one flower to a stem, cup not more than one third the height of the perianth  segments.
  • Division 4 – Double daffodils have a clustered cup, petals or both. There can be one or more flowers per stem.
  • Division 5 – These usually have more than one flower to a stem, head drooping, perianth segments often reflexed  and of silky texture. 
  • Division 6 – Have one flower to a stem, perianth significantly reflexed and corona straight and narrow. 
  • Division 7 – Usually have several flower heads to a stem, flowers usually fragrant, stem is round in  cross-section and foliage is often rush like. 
  • Division 8 – Usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem, sweet scented and very short cupped. Perianth segments rounded and often  somewhat crinkled.
  • Division 9 – Have one flower to a stem. White petals sometimes stained with the corona color at the  base, small flat cup edged with red.
  • Division 10 – Small flowers resemble a “hoop petticoat” form.
  • Division 11 – Corona split for at least one third of its length. Split-corona daffodils with the corona segments opposite  the perianth segments, the corona segments are usually in two whorls of three.
  • Division 12 – Daffodils not falling into any of the previous categories.
  • Division 13 –  All species and reputedly wild forms. 


Flower of the Month

Sternbergia hybrid "Autumn Daffodil"

Sternbergia hybrid "Autumn Daffodil"

Sternbergia hybrid “Autumn Daffodil”
It is a terrific bulb to use in naturalizing. They have bright yellow, crocus-like flowers that pops up out of nowhere. Grow in partial shade for autumn color. These bulbs must be dug and stored each fall where killing frost in colder climates.


Web Site

teaserBrent and Becky’s Bulbs are a hybridizers of daffodils. They are third generation bulb growers, growing many unusual and specialty bulbs on their ten acre farm in Gloucester, Virginia. They  offer a wide selections of the bulbs species, from old favorites like Dutch Master to new introductions, such as Katie Heath.

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A Weed by Another Name – The Joe Pye Weed

Icon Written by Geoff on September 1, 2007 – 7:07 pm

Joe Pye Weed is a tall, dominating upright perennial, three to twelve feet tall, with a green to purple unbranched stems, that are mostly hollow. The lance shaped leaves are eight to twelve inches long, and arranged in whorls at each node on the stem. When crushed, the leaves have a slight hint of vanilla. The blooms are white to mauve and densely packed in several large rounded clusters at the top of the stem. The showy flower clusters can be up to twenty inches across and invariably covered with butterflies, wasps and bees, and beetles from summer until late autumn. Characteristics of all species run together, and identification of individual species can be confusing. 

In the wild, Joe Pye Weed grows in moist fields and pastures, along road shoulders, and at the woodland edges. An Eastern plant, it grows from Central Florida west to Texas and north into Canada. They often grow in thickets along streams and ditches. Some Joe Pyes can be very cold hardy, growing as far north as Quebec and Newfoundland. Normally they are considered cold hardy from Zone 3 through Zone 9. 

Joe Pye Weed is a very popular ornamental plant in Europe but rarely used in gardens in our country. This is starting to slowly change as the home gardener discovers just how useful they are, particularly in the butterfly garden. Most varieties are at home in the background of the border garden. We like to use them in a semi-wild naturalistic garden such as alongside a stream or pond. 

Joe Pye Weed are big and bold enough to hold their own among shrubs in a mixed border but grows best in full sun. Plants grown in partial shade will get too tall and flop over. You can prune them back in late spring and they will bloom at a much lower height. They all like plenty of water but will survive in dry sites. We consider them to be drought tolerant, but they will never be as showy as when grown with abundant moisture. 

Joe Pye Weed is one of the showiest perennials in autumn, towering above summertime’s worn out flowers and shrubs. We like to use them with Solidago rugosa Leraft and Panicum virgatum Cloud Nine or Prairie Sky. On a smaller scale we use Joe Pye Weed with Boltonia decurrens Snowbanks and Solidago rugosa Fireworks or Golden Baby planted in the foreground. All of these and more can be seen on our Plant Data Base. 

Joe Pye Weed has underground stems, called rhizomes, which grow laterally and send up new shoots. The root is woody, thick and purplish brown with cream colored flesh. The above-ground parts die in the Winter and the rhizomes start new stems, leaves, and flowers the following year. We easily propagated them by dividing the root clumps with a sharp shovel or spade during the dormant season. 

Native Americans used concoctions of Joe Pye weed to treat a diversity of internal and external ailments. The Algonquin, Joe Pye, was said to have cured typhus fever with the plant that received his name. The entire plant was used as a medicine with the roots being the strongest part. Crushed leaves have an apple scent and are dried then burned to repel flies. Boil dried root and flowers for a diuretic tea to relieve kidney and urinary problems. Tea is also used to induce sweating and break a high fever. 

We grow the Joe Pye Weeds not for it’s medicinal properties but because they look good in the garden and attract butterflies. We have seen ducks, geese and wild turkey weeding on them in the Fall. In our gardens the Eastern Cottontail and White-tailed Deer really flock to the tickets looking for the seeds. Our favorite is the impressive Gateway, although Carin and Little Joe are hard to beat. Joe Pye Weed attract butterflies and other insects, smell good, are attractive, easy to grow, and even provide food for wild critters. Not many plants are so versatile.

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My Favorite Perennial Mums

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 2004 – 7:09 pm

Last season we tried a new hybrid mum called My Favorite Mum. The My Favorite Mums series is a joint venture of Ball Horticultural Company of West Chicago, Illinois and Anthony Tesselaar International of Melbourne, Australia, both renowned horticultural innovators. 

These mums are bred for hardiness, thriving in the hot humid South as well as the frigid North. Although we have only grown this variety one season we think it is going to be a winner. While probably not replacing the traditional garden mums they do offer a great alternative. 

My Favorite Mums will reach about 12 inches in height and grow to around 16 inches in diameter in the first year. In year two, look for another 2 inches in height and another 6-8 inches in diameter. With ideal growing conditions they will grow not only three feet high but also five feet around. 

These easy to grow and maintain plants produce masses of 2 inch flowers over the entire plant. You can expect over 1,000 flowers the first year and up to 5,000 in the following years. All this without pruning or pinching. On top of this they attract butterflies and are great as a cut flower. 

You can also enjoy the mum in containers on a porch or patio, although, like all perennials, it will not survive the winter out of the ground. This is a great plant to add to existing perennial gardens as you would other mums. It is a great source of replacement color for annual beds that have gone out of bloom. 

The My Favorite Mum is a long bloomer, flowers last 4-5 weeks. They start flowering in Mid-August and continue blooming well into September. Newer flowers generally bloom above older flowers which hides older faded blooms. 

These mums are truly perennial, bred to survive temperatures down to -30 F. A well established plant is the key to keeping My Favorite Mum beautiful. It is best to plant your mum early in the Fall season so it can establish a good root system before winter. 

In the Fall of 2001 ‘Autumn Red’ was introduced with Coral, White, Twilight Pink, and Yellow Quill following in 2002. They are available in pots from area garden retailers, either in bud or bloom. While the selection is somewhat limited we do expect more varieties to be introduced into the market in the coming years. Unfortunately, these mums cannot be sold through catalogs or on line. This is probably the biggest drawback we see to the My Favorite Mum. They are worth the extra effort and we do recommend you give them a try.

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Rudbeckia in the Border Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on September 1, 2004 – 7:16 pm

We find that there are some plants that you just cannot have too many of, in our case it is the Rudbeckia or Black-Eyed Susans. The showy character of this plant make them particularly useful in bold masses, especially around outbuildings, fences, and where unsightly objects are to be hidden. We find that they work particularly well with ornamental grasses and mallows. In some form, Rudbeckia are used in every one of our sunny beds and borders. 

An extremely hardy native of our tall grass prairies, they are both drought and pest resistant. Even the great herds of buffalo, that once roamed the great plains, could not kill this tough critter. Black Eyed Susans not only survived the great prairie fires and “dust bowl” conditions of the 20’s and 30’s but actually expanded their range. 

There are approximately twenty native species, annuals, biennial and perennial varieties, growing in the Midwestern region. Most species like a lean well drained soil in full sun or light shade but will also do well in moist locations. This hardy soul has even been found growing on clay bluffs and limestone ridges of Missouri. 

All varieties of Rudbeckia have golden yellow flowers with a dark, usually raised, central cone. They bloom for 6-8 weeks, beginning in late June. You can prolong the blooming period by deheading or cutting the plant back. Please be sure to stop early enough to allow some of the cones to mature for Winter bird feeding. 

By planting several species, you can have Black-Eyed Susan blooming through late Fall. All Rudbeckia serve admirably as cut flowers, for their stems are long and the flowers long lasting. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds all like these high centered flowers. We use the taller varieties, with Joe Pye Weed, New England Asters, and Mountain Mint in our butterfly gardens. 

Although all but one species can be grown from seed, we find division in early Spring works best. Being such a hardy plant, simply dig up the root ball, cut into sections with a sharp knife or trowel, and replant as we would a hosta. Actually digging up the plant helps to keep them under control for while not invasive they are extremely vigorous. 

Rudbeckias are equally at home on the prairie, in the border garden, for attracting birds and butterflies, or in the formal flower arrangement. We find them growing in the home rock garden or moist country swale. Even fire and wild animals cannot kill this plant. Little wonder why we use it so often in our gardens. 

Here are some of the more popular Rudbeckia that you my wish to try in your garden: 

Rudbeckia fulgida VAR. Sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
It is a compact 2-3 foot selection of Black-Eyed Susan that blooms for 6-8 weeks in mid-to-late summer. Numerous golden yellow ray flowers with black central cones cover this plant in a profusion of color. 

Rudbeckia grandiflora ‘Black-Eyed Susan’
It is a species of the dry prairie, a truly giant Black-Eyed Susan. Long-stalked leaves, hairy stems, robust form and gold daisies with dark eyes are characteristic of the species. Each stem yields a single bloom, but with many, many flowering stems, flowers mature to showy tall cones on 3-4 foot plant. 

Rudbeckia maxima ‘Cabbage Leaf Coneflower’
It is a dramatic Black-Eyed Susan 6-7 foot that adds vertical drama to the natural landscape as well as in the cultivated sunny garden. We grow this Rudbeckia for its eye-catching large, coarse foliage that resembles oversized cabbage leaves. 

Rudbeckia speciosa v. Newmanii ‘Compact Black-Eyed Susan’
It is one of the shortest and latest blooming. Flowers are slightly smaller than most Rudbeckia but abundant on compact 2 foot plants. 

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Three-Lobed or Thin-Leaved Coneflower’
It has small but numerous brown-eyed flowers that appear from late summer through early fall on 3-5 foot plants. It tolerates light shade, poor soils and drought. 

Rudbeckia missouriensis ‘Missouri Coneflower”
It is an attractive, long lived perennial wildflower excellent for cut flowers. It provides natural color when planted in the butterfly or rock garden. Missouri Black-eyed Susan is equally at home in formal flower beds or naturalized in a prairie meadow. 

Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Sweet Black-eyed Susan’
It receives its common names from the flower’s sweet anise scent. Numerous 3 inch flowers consisting of yellow petals around dome-shaped central disks provide nectar for butterflies and seed for Goldfinches. This sweetly scented flower occurs naturally in low meadows, open slopes, stream banks, and prairies. 

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Gold Drop”
It is a free flowering, hardy Black Eyed Susan with double, 2 inch, yellow flowers on 2-3 foot stems. Very attractive used in cut flowers arrangements. 

Some other Rudbeckia worth considering for your garden are: 

  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Irish Eyes’
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Marmalade’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Gloriasa Daisy’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Toto Lemon’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sonora’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’
  • Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’
  • Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’
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Care of Garden Roses as Cut Flowers

Icon Written by Geoff on May 1, 2004 – 7:39 pm

There is no mystical secret in making your fresh cut garden roses last a long time. All it takes is a little planning and preparation on your part. Commercial growers do it every day and so can you. 

The evening before you plan to cut your roses, water them well. This will give the plant more substance and lasting power. Early morning is the best time to cut roses, while the stems and petals are full of water and sugar. 

New rose plants are especially sensitive to the loss of leaves so try to avoid cutting long stems as this weakens the plant. We always try to cut stems back to a five-leaflet bud joint. If you do not cut back this far, a replacement bloom is often not produced. Cutting short stems is particularly important in Late Summer as the plant is then building up reserves to carry it through the Winter. 

Select flowers with petals that are just starting to unfold, when they are just beyond the bud stage, as these will last the longest. Always make a nice, clean cut with sharp pruners, at a 45 degree angle, to reduce damage to the cane. Carefully strip off any leaves that might be submerged in the vase. Be sure not to peel back the skin as this will prevent water absorption. Try to keep the cut stems in water at all times or they will absorb air. This disrupts the flow of nutrients to the flowers and leads to an early death. 

Make sure that the pitcher or vase is clean. Bacterial growth and fungus will prevent the roses from drawing water up the stem just like air. A 5% solution of household bleach and water should be used to disinfect the container. We always follow this with a hot washing in our dishwasher. 

After you have cut your roses, bring them indoors and place them immediately in a large container of lukewarm water. Make a second cut underwater, about an inch up the stem. This prevents air bubbles from plugging the stem, then move the stem quickly from the cutting bowl to the vase. Allow the cut blooms to stand in room temperature for several hours before arranging them for display. 

Soft or distilled water works best as it has very little salt content. The water temperature should be warm to the touch, between 100 and 110 degrees. For best results add a cut flower preservative to the water in the vase. A good floral preservative serves three functions, it kills bacteria, acidifies the water, and it provides sugar. The most common problems when working with floral preservatives is not using enough. Dissolving aspirin in warm water makes an excellent preservative. You can also fight bacteria by immediately removing any flowers that are past their prime. 

Every morning cut the stem back another inch, change the water, and add new preservative. Your cut roses will keep longer out of direct sunlight, drafts, and hot areas, such as around oven, stoves, televisions, and even computers. Following these steps, your roses should easily last 7-10 days!

Growing Roses in Containers

Icon Written by Geoff on April 1, 2004 – 7:41 pm

In our previous Yard Talk on Old Roses we mentioned that we dug up all of our Hybrid Tea Roses and moved them across the garden. We jokingly said how much easier this would have been if the roses were in containers. Faced with the task once again the joke just may be on us. 

There definitely are some advantages in growing roses in containers. In our case we could have easily moved the plants as the growing conditions changed, namely the trees got bigger and the sunlight less. We could simply pick up the plants and plop them down in a new spot. 

Not everyone has room in their yard for a rose garden, but most gardens have room for at least a few containers, even apartment and condominium dwellers. Container-growing is great for people who love to grow roses, but only have pavement or gravel surrounding their homes. If you need to move to a different apartment or even city, you can simple pack them and bring them along. 

Potted roses can be easily moved about to change the design effect or layout. You can even move the containers around to showcase those which are now blooming or to complement another plant or setting. Roses grown in containers offer gardeners the flexibility of blending roses into their garden landscapes even as the seasons change. 

Container growing simplifies winter protection, where winter cold is a problem, you simply move the plant to the shelter of a porch, garage, or basement. This can greatly simplify Fall maintenance. Just think, no more cutting back, banking or installing those funny white Styrofoam Winter hats! 

When roses are grown in containers, water and food can be delivered to the rose alone, it does not have to compete with other plants or trees. Since the rose is off the ground and can be spun around allowing food and water to be applied more uniformly. You will find spraying easier too! Sickly roses can be moved quickly to another area for doctoring. 

Planting in containers provides us the opportunity to refresh the soil frequently. We can now repot roses as we would any other plant, thus assuring it of having the best possible growing medium. This is particularly important in growing roses which are such heavy feeders. 

Growing roses in containers can be done by gardeners with physical limitations. Pots can be elevated or placed on movable carts to increase accessibility. Where the gardener cannot go to the plant the plant can be brought to the gardener. 

Whether you decide to grow just one rose in a single decorative pot or a garden filled with beautiful container roses it adds a whole new dimension to rose gardening. We strongly suggest you give it a try.