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The 3 ers for container planting

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The 3 ers for container planting

The 3 ers are: Thrillers, fillers and spillers.

Container combo a

Thriller – big, bold and beautiful.  This plant is the tallest and is your main accent.  Could be outstanding foliage, fantastic flowers or both.  btw, you can cut the flowers off of coleus… they don’t really add much!

Filler – complimentary to your thriller, these plants are generally smaller flowers that can be monochromatic or contrasting flowers.

Spiller – the trailing plants that tumble over your container to soften it.  Great trailers include sweet potato vines, vincas and ivies.

Container comb b

Below is a recipe I created for a 14 inch pot at Wagners Greenhouse in Minneapolis.  (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo)

  • 1 Purple Millet
  • 2 orange (purple eye) Osteospermum
  • 1 purple Osteospermum
  • 1 purple sweet potato vine
  • 1 swedish ivy
  • 1 lamium (a perennial you can plant in the fall) ‘White Nancy’

Choose plants with the same cultural requirements.

Container combo 2

Spike, ivy, Kong coleus, sweet potato vine, impatiens

Don’t be afraid to squish those plants in the container!  Just be sure to leave room for watering.  In other words, don’t place plants all the way to the top of the container.  For my burlap containers I made, I placed a piece of plastic bag on the bottom only to hold a little more moisture.  As you can see, this one is newly planted and has no Tall plant, it’s just simply pretty…  So rules are meant to be broken and guidelines are just that…  to guide.  The rest is up to YOU!  ?  Enjoy!

burlap basket 2014

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Trees: Plant this not that

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Trees: Plant this not that

My favorite arborist, Faith Appelquist, owner of Treequality, recently shared her thoughts on the worst trees for planting. Tree selection is a big deal, they’re an investment in dollars and time.  There are lots of considerations, one of those is the mature size of the tree you select.

This might be a tad extreme!

This might be a tad extreme!

Oftentimes, homeowners just envision this little sapling becoming a 40 foot tree you planted 4 feet from the foundation of your home.  Okay, that said, let’s take a look at some offending trees and why we shouldn’t plant them.

American Elm 'Jefferson'

American Elm ‘Jefferson’

The Siberian Elm is, likely, one of the worst to plant in North America.  People choose it because it’s a fast grower, it can exceed 50 feet in 20 to 30 years.  That also means it’s branches are weak leaving messy, broken appendages.  Faith suggests planting the American Elm ‘Jefferson’ instead.

Siberian Elm

Siberian Elm








Flowering crabapples are such a welcome site until July.  While their flowers, foliage and fruit are lovely, the diseases these beauties are prone to make it one to watch out for.  Faith’s list of disease-resistant varieties include ‘Royal Raindrops’ which I have in my  front yard. Crabapple - Royal Raindrops 2015



Faith’s list of best crabapple choices:

  • Adirondack 
  • Beverly 
  • Calocarpa 
  • Dolgo
  • Harvest Gold
  • Lancelot
  • Molten Lava
  • Prairifire 
  • Professor Sprenger 
  • Royal Raindrops 
  • Tina
  • Sugar Tyme





Another tree that I planted many years ago, ‘Autumn Blaze’ maple, Faith calls ‘Autumn Disaster’.  Ouch!  It grows fast, has gorgeous fall color and is weak in the crotch.  The first big storm could take it out.So far mine is standing.  Faith says, don’t take it out if it’s healthy, but don’t plant another!  Instead plant gingko biloba.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko Biloba

Maple - Autumn Blaze

Maple – Autumn Blaze






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Deer resistant plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Deer resistant plants

While I admire the brown-eyed beauty of the white tail deer, I do NOT admire their munching on my plants!

deer busted

This delightful deer was on it’s way to my Hosta Cafe.  There are deer “resistant” plants.  Notice I said “resistant” not “proof”!

deer double


Due to their toxicity, fragrance or texture, deer seem to be repelled by these plants:

  • Columbine
  • Coneflower
  • Sage
  • Yarrow
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lenten Rose
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Foxglove
  • Heliopsis
  • Beebalm aka Monarda
  • Boxwood
  • Barberry
  • Juniper
  • Mint

Think plants that are hairy, thorny, prickly, sticky, poisonous.  Really the things that bother us, bother them.  They don’t care for the intense scent of mint.  Personally, I love it but it IS invasive.



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Some like it wet, some like it dry

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Some like it wet, some like it dry

We talk a lot about sun/shade conditions and soil types but one thing we don’t always check on when pursuing our favorite plants is whether they like dry feet or wet feet.  Some really have a penchant for moist soil.

Siberian Iris are graceful yet tough perennials that thrive in moist to wet soil, and they’ll form large clumps that bloom heavily after the first year.   For most prolific bloom, Siberian Iris should be planted in full sun. Siberian irises flourish in rich, slightly acidic (pH 5.5-6.5), high organic matter soil.  For more on planting iris click HERE.

siberian Iris clump

A gorgeous shrub that appreciates extra moisture is Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’.  Hardy from zone 3 to 7, this chartreuse beauty will turn heads.  Keep in mind, it doesn’t like herbicides of any kind!

Sambucus Elderberry - Lemony LaceAn annual for the pond edge or in a container you can keep watered, try Cyperus Papyrus ‘King Tut’.  It looks like a bunch of tall green sparklers!

Cyperus Papyrus ‘King Tut’ 2For dry gardens you can’t hardly beat Russian Sage and there’s now a shorter variety called ‘Peek a Blue’.

Russian Sage 'Peek a Blue'

Verbascum and Lambs Ears are also wonderful perennials for sunny dry spots.  In the shade, check out Lamium.  This plant will grow in up to full shade, with it’s variegated leaves it’ll brighten up a dark spot in the garden.



Lamb's Ear

Lamb’s Ear

Lamb's Ear

Lamb’s Ear

Lamium 'Orchid Frost'

Lamium ‘Orchid Frost’

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Watering newly planted trees and shrubs

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Watering newly planted trees and shrubs

I’d bet there are a bunch of you who’ve been plant shopping!  Perhaps you’ve purchased new trees and shrubs.  If so, then click on wise watering practices.

Root systems of bare root, containerized, and balled and burlapped trees and shrubs have been severely reduced or restricted by nursery management practices.  Once you get them home…  Newly planted trees and shrubs need regular and consistent watering until root systems establish.

water resevoir for plant

After planting, those systems will grow and establish until they are much wider than the above ground portion of the plant. During this establishment time, they need consistent watering to prevent water stress.  Some nurseries will give you a watering schedule.  I know my local nursery does.  Follow THEIR directions.  If they didn’t give that to you – ask.  If you bought at a big box store or another type of outlet, then follow my lead.

For the first 2 weeks, water daily.  Depending on the size of your new purchase your water VOLUME will vary.  For trees, apply 1-1 1/2 gallons per inch of stem diameter at each watering.  Measure the diameter at 6 inches above the root flare.

tree caliper

When watering newly planted shrubs, apply a volume of water that is 1/4 – 1/3 of the volume of the container that the shrub was purchased in. As roots grow and spread, irrigation volume will need to be increased.

Barberry and Buttonbush

Barberry and Buttonbush planted in 2015



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The dirt on plant shopping

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The dirt on plant shopping

When plant shopping, bigger is not always better.  Tis better to bloom in your garden than in the garden center.

If you see a little wilting it could be a sign of a root problem.  Look for plants with good color on the leaves.  Look under the leaves for any possible insects.  If you have a plant loupe, bring it with you!  You’ll look ultra cool, I promise.  ;-)

Plant loupe

Seriously, in some of the big box stores where plants are shipped in from all over, it’s not a bad idea.

Your local garden nurseries are generally more reliable but always do a look see.  I had a horticulturist from the U of MN tell me that, if she sees any sign of wilting, she’ll tip the plant out of it’s pot to see the roots.  They should look white and plump.  No yellowing or mushy spots and no wrapped roots.

Take a look at these root systems!  Obviously you want the one on the right.  The roots on the left are wrapped around and around and you can see the plant is not doing well.  You CAN do some root pruning.  Take an exacto knife and slice those roots!  If you’re feeling like that’s too brutal, then shake the plant out.  Just remember that it’s important those winding roots are NOT planted that way.  Take notice of the bottom of both plants, see how the roots have bunched up?  Cut them! 

Root systems

If you’re looking for rare plants, check out the smaller local nurseries.  And check the paper for Charity Plant Sales.  By the way, know what your needs are.  Sun?  Shade?  Height?  Color?  Bloom time.  In other words, make a list!

plant purchases 1

Just getting started with planting those purchases!

Just getting started with planting those purchases!

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Annual bulbs

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Annual bulbs

You thought bulb planting season was over?  No!  In pops the Caladium with some real pizzazz.  I love these plants.  They’re wonderful in the part shade garden but must be planted after the soil has warmed.  Do NOT plant these guys until the end of May, beginning of June.  Add peat moss to the planting hole, they like their soil a little more acidic.

Caladium ‘Fanny Munson’


Caladium ‘White Christmas’

Caladium 'Frieda Hemple'

Caladium ‘Frieda Hemple’

Plant the bulbs knobby side up about 2 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart depending on their mature size.  For more drama in the part shade garden consider Elephant Ears.  All I can say is “WOW”…

Elephant Ear ‘Mojito’

One more darling for the semi-shade garden is the anemone ‘Harmony Blue’, which I inadvertantly called ‘Blue Harmony’ on the podcast.  Oops!  Anyway, it’s hardiness is disputed so consider it NOT hardy to Minnesota.  You can dig up the bulbs in the Fall and overwinter them indoors the same as you would caladiums and cannas.  You can do that with Elephant Ears as well.

Anemone ‘Harmony Blue’


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Blueberry – the antioxidant superhero

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Blueberry – the antioxidant superhero

The Blueberry is the antioxidant  superhero!   Growing blueberries in soils that are more alkaline DOES offer it’s challenges if only that the soil likely needs amending.  Ideally the pH is 5 or 6 to grow this delicious fruit.  In Minnesota, where I live, most of us have alkaline soil which has a pH level of 7.

Blueberry Patriot Hybrid

Blueberry Patriot Hybrid

But the University of Minnesota has created some delectable varieties for Northern Gardeners everywhere.  Just get a soil test and make amendments!  For complete information go to Blueberries in the Home Landscape.

Select  what’s called a “half high” variety, a clever name for a cross between a high bush and a low bush blueberry.  “Polaris” is a U of M introduction that has good flavor and ripens early.  For a mid season blueberry, “Northblue” is a great option and one of the most popular varieties.  “St. Cloud” is the tallest half-high at 4 ft. and delivers up to 7 pounds of blueberries in a season.  You’ll need to plant more than one variety of blueberry bush for pollination.   Below is ‘North Country’.

Blueberry 'North County'

Blueberry - St. Cloud

Blueberry – St. Cloud

Fall coloration is outstanding with blueberries!

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

Once you’ve modified your soil, you should only need to make one application of an acid-producing fertilizer each year.  An azalea fertilizer that’s formulated for acid-loving plants works well for the backyard gardener.  For information on Chelated Iron to amend soil.

Like I told you on my radio show….  I filmed this quite some time ago, so please, cut me some slack!  😉

One more piece of information you may not want to hear, you should pinch off the flowers the first couple of years and let the blueberries roots and vegetation grow.  You’ll build a better blueberry for great harvests for years to come!  Let me know and I’ll be over for pie… or a muffin!

blueberry muffins

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Pollinator plants and hummingbird attractors

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Pollinator plants and hummingbird attractors

Whatever all the reasons are for the bee decline or colony collapse, we can still plant for pollinators.  That includes butterflies and hummingbirds as well as bees!

butterfly and hummingbird

Planting native species is a good thing and there are plenty of nurseries that offer good native stock.   Check out my Favorite Links tab.  I just planted Prairie Smoke last year.  It’s just a baby…

Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke

What it will look like…

prairie smoke 2

Echinacea purpurea is a great attractor.

Echinacea - native purple coneflower

Echinacea – native purple coneflower

Another wonderful native is Aquilegia Canadensis aka Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis

I also enjoy  new cultivars.  The one thing we have to understand is that there is always a trade-off of some sort.  While you can have a spectacular rose, you may lose some of it’s fragrance.  Or perhaps you get a disease resistant tomato that lacks that full flavor you love.

Echinacea - Salsa Red

Echinacea – Salsa Red

Salvia is another standout for pollinators.  It’s a standup plant that grows to 2 feet tall and again that wide.  ‘Lyrical Blues’ is one I planted 2 years ago and really love it.

Salvia - Lyrical Blues

Salvia – Lyrical Blues

Hummingbirds love the color red but they’ll be attracted to most tubular shaped flowers.  They also like petunias and fuchsias.  Oh, and for a perennial – try honeysuckle vine!

Honeysuckle vine -

Honeysuckle vine ‘Dropmore Scarlet’

List of Plants for Pollinators from the University of Minnesota Extension

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

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Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Neonicitinoids

My unscientific belief is that there’s more than one reason bees have declined.  Pesticides and mites are named but there may be more reasons.  Today we’ll talk neonicotinoids.

By 2018, the state of Maryland will no longer allow the use of neonicotinoids by consumers.  Farmers may still use them.  More on discovery.com

Neonicotinoids, also called neonics, are a large part of the discussion. This type of insecticide is a systemic, meaning that it is taken up into the plant itself making the entire plant toxic to insects such as aphids, and by the looks of things, bees.  Neonics attack the Central nervous system causing paralysis and death.


They were the first new insecticides introduced to the market in the last 50 years with high hopes due to it’s lower toxicity to mammals, however European countries have linked the bee colony collapse to the insecticide and are now banning them in some cases.

Honey bees

Recent research states that neonics disrupt the immune system of bees because they have a unique system.  Bees pollinate 45% of the world’s crops. The very real challenge is that large agricultural companies have used neonics to treat approximately 80% of their seed. While intentions were good, there’s much more to learn.   Click on the below links for more information…

The Canadian Press

Christian Science Monitor May ’15 article on colony collapse

Penn State University

University of Minnesota – scientific – Forbes article

The Xerces Society

Ontario Beekeepers Association

neonics 2


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