Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Hosta Care

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

Hostas are an excellent perennial plant for shade gardens. Originally from Asia, hostas, are a herbaceous perennial primarily grown for its attractive foliage. These shade perennials thrive in low light and only get better with age as the clumps get larger and the variegated leaves become wider and the coloring becomes more intense, especially in the gold-toned cultivars. While they are easy to grow, there are a few things the home gardener can do to help them along.

While hostas can get along without fertilizing, we like to feed our established plants a balanced fertilizer in the Spring before the leaves have fully emerged. After the leaves have emerged, we recommend using a balanced water soluble fertilizer every month or so. If you use granular fertilizer after the leaves have emerged, try to ensure that none of the granules stick in the foliage as this will burn the leaves. Generally, a good overhead watering will wash the fertilizer off the leaves.

Hostas will tolerate a fairly wide range of soils. However, they prefer a well drained humus soil, the more organic material the better. We like to add compost to the beds every two years as we have a very heavy clay soil.

Spacing hostas does not really matter, we usually just let the plants size determine spacing. As a general rule, smaller varieties need to be planted closer together than the larger varieties. We like to plant our hostas as close together as possible to create a groundcover look. If you are more interested in a specimen garden, you will want to increase these spacings so that the individual plants can be seen.

While we have many clumps in our home gardens that have been undisturbed since 1989, most of our hostas have been divided and transplanted many times. This is primarily for aesthetic purposes but, if a hosta is not doing well in one location, it sometimes helps to move it. It is said that hostas should only be moved in the Spring but, we have found that they thrive no matter what the calendar says.

We divide clumps every two or three years to increase our stock. Try to salvage as much of the root system as practical. After the clump is dug, we wash the roots so that we can see where to divide. Most hostas have a basal plate of hard tissue between the foliage and the roots. Try to cut through only this basal plate area and avoid cutting off roots. We generally transplant immediately after division.

Hostas, in normal conditions can go for several weeks without water. Obviously, dwarf and small hostas with their shallower roots will need more frequent water than larger varieties. In addition, newly planted hostas, regardless of size, need fairly frequent watering until their root systems become established.

All that said, just remember, hostas are a very easy plant to grow and are very forgiving. This is why we have over 400 varieties growing everywhere, that and the fact that they look very good!

Tips of the Month

Hostas need a period of dormancy, brought on by colder weather and perhaps decreased light. While we prefer to leave the foliage undisturbed until late in the winter we know of a lot of homegardeners that remove the foliage as soon as it dies back. At that time, while the ground is still frozen, we rake off all of last season’s decayed leaves, etc. In climates involving a frequent freeze/thaw cycle we recommend covering the hosta with a couple of inches of compost. Then in mid or late March before the leaves start to emerge, we gently rake off the compost.

Flower of the Month


Hosta hybrid Paul’s Glory

It is mutation from H. ‘Perry’s True Blue’ has brilliant gold leaves with a wide blue edge. The dark golden leaves brighten to a white gold as the season progresses. These spectacular clumps are topped with light lavender flowers on 24″ scape in late spring. This is one of those rare hostas that stands out in any garden.

Web Site of the Month

Naylor Creek Nursery in Chimacum, Washington

It is one of our favorite sources of specimen hostas in all colors and sizes. We have been buying from them for several seasons and have always been happy with our orders. The plants have always arrived in excellent shape in the time frame that we specified. We look forward to receiving their yearly Plant List which offers many new introductions from some of the best hybridizers in the country. While they specialize in hostas, they do offer several other select shade garden perennials.

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Hostas Sun or Shade

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

With good reason, hostas are one of the most popular plants for the homegardener. After all growing hostas, is easy, and they provide fabulous, foolproof foliage that thrives in in almost any situation.

Hostas are shade plants, right? Not necessarily. Hostas are considered shade-tolerant plants, but shade might not be their ideal growing condition. Hostas grow best in an exposure with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Some cultivars will tolerate some afternoon sun, although plants grown in full afternoon sun probably will show signs of burning on leaves in the summer months. Many hostas are more vigorous and display their most vibrant colors if given at least some sun. Yellow colored hostas without at least a couple of hours of full sun will fade to green.

Keep in mind, the heat experienced in a full sun location can vary from area to area and even during different times of the day. Full sun in the morning hours will not be as intense as full sun at noon. So if your site is extremely hot or dry, you will need to keep any hostas sitting in full sun well watered.

Similarly, no hosta is going to thrive in deep shade. They all need some sunlight to photosynthesize. The shade tolerant varieties seem to do best in an exposure of morning sun and late afternoon shade.

Blue hostas require the most protection from the sun. This is because the blue color is actually a waxy coating on the leaves. The leaves themselves are a shade of green. The waxy coating gives them a blue tint. In full, hot sun, this waxy coating melts and exposes the green leaf underneath.

Unfortunately, only trial and error can tell you which hostas with variegation can tolerate full sun without burning. The thicker the leaves, the more tolerant they will be of full sun. Another problem with variegated hostas is that they have minimal amounts of chlorophyll. In full sun, the chlorophyll levels can increase and cause the leaves to pick up a green cast and look less variegated.

You can follow the rules and choose the recommended plants and still not have success. The only real gage for how sun tolerant a plant is, is how it is performing. If your Hosta plants are not doing as well try moving them to a new location.

Tips of the Month

Some simple things to remember about sunlight and growing hostas:

  • The most important thing to remember is hosta are shade tolerant, not shade dependent.
  • The more white a hosta has the more sun it needs to maintain vigor.
  • A lot of the yellow/gold hosta have brighter colors in the sun.
  • Blue leaved plants do better in deeper shade since the blue color is from a waxy coating on the leaves.
  • No matter where you place the hosta, remember to water until it is established.
  • All morning sunshine is welcome, then semi or full shade during the afternoon. 7. Hostas expire a lot of water via their leaves. The hot afternoon sun will tax their ability to supply sufficient water to the leaf. The heat will deteriorate the Hosta leaves from the edges inwards
  • Some hostas will burn quite easily so that only 1-2 hours of early morning sun is the maximum that can be tolerated.
  • Hostas that have yellow centers, or are all yellow must have 1-2 hours of direct sun.
  • Generally, dark green and blue Hostas will do better in more shade.
  • Flower of the Month


    Hosta Hybrid ‘Inniswood’

    Named for Inniswood Gardens in Westerville, Ohio, Inniswood ( ) is a version of ‘Sun Glow with rounded gold corrugated foliage and a wide, deep green edge has become a hosta world favorite. The fast growing 4 foot wide clump is topped with medium lavender flowers on 30 inch scapes in late spring.

    Web Site of the Month

    White Oak Nursery

    Since 1984 White Oak Nursery has been a family owned and operated business specializing in raising hostas. In 2003 we expanded their product line to include daylilies. They grow their plants on twelve acres in Woodford County, Illinois. Their objective is to satisfy their customers by providing a wide selection of varieties at reasonable prices.

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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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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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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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Banana Trees in the Northern Garden

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

Last Summer, while making a quick trip to Lowe’s to pick up some lumber, we happened to notice a display of small potted banana trees. We could not believe they were trying to sell these tropical plants in Michigan. What a joke, we thought, with our cool Spring weather much less our early Fall. There just was no way these tiny plants would ever have a chance to survive much less reach maturity.

Banana Tree

Banana Tree

Needless to say we ended up buying one. We planted it in what we call our “Tropical Garden” which consists of one Sago Palm and a few Taro plants. These we over-winter in the living-room in front of the French doors. In the Spring we bring them outside and plant them around a small water feature. Not a big problem, as they are only about the size of a large houseplant and require little care. Little did we know how this would change.

We started to worry a few weeks later when our “little banana plant” was almost three foot tall “and growing.” By September, we new we were in trouble as it was well over six foot tall “and growing.” In late October, when we were bringing in the taro and palm we resigned ourselves to the fact that our banana experiment was headed to a tragic end as it was now over eight foot “and growing.”

In November, with the first frost forecasted we said good bye to our friend the “ the little banana tree.” Alas we just could not do it, nightfall found us trying to fit a very large banana tree in the front door. The banana tree’s new home was next to the Sago Palm and Taro in front of the French doors, “ and was still growing,”

It is now late January and our little tree is “still growing.” Spring cannot come quick enough.

 Tips of the Month

We planted our banana tree on a lark! Looking back we have enjoyed every minute of it, even the mad dash to get it in before the first frost. You can practically see it grow as the leaves unfold. We are not sure what we will do with it next Fall as this unnamed specimen will be too big to bring in again, but we sure have enjoyed it.

That said, start by learning more about the available species than we did. A key factor to success when it comes to banana growing is to choose the right species. In our cold weather in Michigan you must choose a banana tree that will not get too big for your home.

The first priority to consider when growing banana is to use the proper soil. It is very important to use a well draining soil mixture Do not use heavy soils when growing banana such as potting soil, or soil from a yard. Plant the banana rhizome upright and be sure the roots are well covered and the rhizome has about 1/2 inch of the base covered with soil.

We advise that you water and fertilize banana at the same time using any type of balanced fertilizer to help grow banana. Bananas are heavy feeders so we suggest that you fertilize very lightly each time that you water. After your initial watering we would not water again until your soil is dry to a one inch depth. Please do not expect this to be a plant that you “water once a week”. Bananas like high humidity, hot, dry air will destroy the leaves.

Grow banana in bright light, 10-12 hours of light are ideal for most varieties. In northern areas grow bananas in containers remembering that they like to be root bound. Transplant to a larger container when your plant is quite crowded. Never plant it in a container without a drain hole.

Flower of the Month

Pink Velvet Banana

Pink Velvet Banana

Musa velutina “Pink Velvet Banana” is a hardy banana that is often found in the garden. Rarely exceeding six feet tall it produces many flower stalks near the top of the trunk, starting in late Summer. The colorful dark pink inflorescence and fuzzy pink fruits are great for flower arrangements. It likes rich soil and regular applications of fertilizer during the Spring and Summer. Keep well watered during hot periods. It prefers medium shade, but tolerates sun. Once established, they seem to be quite winter-hardy. Makes a nice focal point for a tropical or subtropical patio or courtyard. Excellent as a container plant.

Web Site

Plant Delights Nursery is a mail order firm specializing in unusual perennials. Their catalog features a wide variety of native perennials, as well as their Asian counterparts. The nursery opened in 1991 after years of plant collecting and selling at small back yard sales. The on-line catalog features well over 1000 different perennials. Many of the plants listed are their own introductions. Their plants are not just botanical novelties, but good noninvasive garden plants. We have never bought a bad plant from these people.

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Our Favorite Groundcovers

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

Every gardener uses groundcovers in their landscapes even if they do not realize it. Often times groundcovers are overlooked, simply taken for granted as the green stuff growing on the hillside. When we do get around to discussing groundcovers, the first thing that pops into our minds are low spreading ivy, vinca minor, spreading junipers, and ajuga that we planted to hide something bad.

Ask a lawn maintenance company in our local to name a ground cover and he will state without hesitation “Kentucky Blue Grass.” Personally, I think groundcovers are any plant used to protect the soil by forming a dense protective blanket, if it is attractive so much the better. 

Well just what then is a groundcover and what does it do! The Melbourne Water District defines groundcover plants as:

“Goundcovers are tough, prostrate-growing plants that can help retain soil moisture, keep soil cool and suppress weeds.” 

While the Virgina Extension Service describes groundcover as:

Groundcovers are low-growing plants that spread quickly to form a dense cover. Grass is the best known ground cover,but grass is not suited to all locations.”

Usually ground cover plants are utilized for, steep banks, shady areas under trees, under plantings in shrub borders and beds, where tree roots grow close to the surface and prevent grass from growing, and very wet or dry locations.

Groundcovers not only solve problems but also unify different components in the landscape. A low groundcover can provide a transition between the lawn and taller plants used in beds. They soften hardscapes such as walks, steps, and driveways. 

What plants you use are based on the conditions of the site and on what you like. The groundcovers you choose should require only minimal care. They should be able to depend mainly on the  rainfall for nourishment. An annual application of fertilizer may be given, but not necessary, to keep  the plants growing vigourously. Selected plantings should only be divided if they cease to grow well through overcrowding. The most common mistake made by the home gardener is in not using enough plants in the initial planting to adequately cover the area. Please do not skimp in this area to save money, it will only give you years of grief.

Groundcovers are merely another gardening tool, one when correctly used will, save you time and money, while adding to the overall beauty of your landscape.  Choose your planting wisely and they will provide years of carefree charm. Do not be afraid to experiment with different plants, all groundcover does not need to look like English Ivy.


Tips of the Month

The following are our favorite plants for use as groundcovers:


Asarum europaeum ‘European Ginger’

 Asarum europaeum ‘European Ginger’

This little creeper gives off a strong scent of ginger from its large fleshy tubers. Though it can be situated in borders, it comes into its own as a ground-core plant in moist and shady parts of the garden. The flowers are a deep red but even more important are the silky leaves.

Gazania rigens

Gazania rigens

Gazania rigens

This is a perennial grown as an annual that grows well in rock gardens or in other hot, dry areas. It forms a very low, ground-hugging ground cover, producing bright yellow, orange or red, daisy-like flowers. Flowers close at night and on very cloudy days. Plants grow 6 to 12-inches tall with blueish foliage. Do not plant in the partial shade as a full day’s sun is required for healthy plants.


Tama No Genpei

Epimedium grandflorum ‘Tama No Genpei’ 
It emerges in spring with attractive purple tinted foliage. Epimediums will never be the traffic stoppers like roses, but these perennials are the unsung workhorses that tie the woodland garden together. Epimediums are easy to grow, tenacious perennials that provide a welcome first breath of spring with their airy flowers, then a solid backdrop of attractive foliage for the remainder of the growing season. 


Juniperus procumbens

Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’
This dwarf juniper is especially good for groundcover or cascading over walls with its tight growth habit and bright green foliage. One of the most sought after low growing junipers with a very interesting growing habit. The very best of the low growing junipers.


Lavandula angustifoliia

Lavandula angustifoliia ‘Hidcote ‘
This is one of the most versatile herbs, inspiring poets, gardeners, artists, cooks and healers for hundreds of years. The scent of lavender has long been linked with romance, as Shakespeare’s writings exemplify. Aromatic, evergreen greyish foliage.  


Dennstaedtia punctilobula

Dennstaedtia punctilobula ‘Hay Scented Fern’
This is native to eastern North America is a popular garden fern being very adaptable and tolerant of many conditions. Fronds: lanceolate 3-5″ wide, twice to tri-pinnate, pinnae toothed with irregularly cut margins or teeth, scattered hairs on rachis and stipe

Flower of the Month


Variegated Japanese Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum odoratum thunbergii Variegatum -Variegated Japanese Solomon’s Seal 

This is graceful shade plants that provide nice form and structure to the garden. These plants have long arching unbranched stems, they have nice clean, veined leaves with clusters of bell like greenish yellow to whitish yellow flowers hanging down from the stems at the leaf axis. In late summer and fall showy berries are produced that are blue to dark blue in color. 

The rhizomes of Solomon seals are white, long, thick and somewhat knobby, they usually grow about 2-4 inches underground in a horizontal angle to the surface. Most Solomon seals grow in spreading colonies that are easy to dig up and divide. 


Web Site of the Month

Collector’s Nursery is a retail mail order nursery with an interest in unique plant material. They specialize in dwarf and rare conifers and uncommon, choice perennials, with a strong emphasis on shade plants. Collector’s also have a wide offering of variegated plants, and an expanding selection of rare trees and shrubs. We propagate almost all of our own material from our large display garden. Some of our favorite genera are Epimedium, Tricyrtis, Corydalis, and Arisaema.

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