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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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Creeping Charlie

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Creeping Charlie

Nearly every time I speak with home gardeners they ask how to get rid of Creeping Charlie [Univ. of MN Extension].   This is one tough invasive.

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie

However, you might consider embracing it’s cute little scalloped leaves and purple flowers because it attracts and provides food for pollinators!  Become a “Friend of Charlie”…

Also called ground ivy, Creeping Charlie is part of the Mint family. Like all mints, it spreads on top of the soil via stolons  or (surface roots).

Creeping charlie stolons

This little creep will regrow from very small pieces of vegetation.  So if you try to pull it out and don’t get all of it, it won’t matter, Charlie’s coming back!

creeping charlie in a lawn

You may likely never fully get rid of Creeping Charlie unless you’re willing to put in the effort.  Using a lot of chemicals has never been my favorite thing, however, that’s just me.  Some people really want this GONE.  The University of Wisconsin found applying synthetic broadleaf weed killers when the plants are in full bloom or after a hard freeze in fall is effective. This kills existing plants but won’t prevent seeds from sprouting, so you’ll need to monitor and treat as needed. Weed killers containing Dicamba or Banvel are very effective, but ongoing use of these products has been linked to tree decline. Since ground ivy gets its start in the shade under trees and shrubs, this can be a problem for your other permanent landscape plants.

Maintaining a healthy lawn, planting the appropriate shade tolerant grasses or other non-invasive ground covers will go a long way in deterring Creeping Charlie.

I just talked about Chelated iron last week for blueberries.  It also burns Creeping Charlie foliage and its stolons when used for that purpose. A maximum of four applications may be applied annually. Lawn grasses may show some burning on the blades, but will recover. They’ll also turn a deep green due to the absorption of iron so don’t use it for spot treatments but rather the whole lawn. Treated areas can be re-seeded the next day, and people and pets may re-enter the area when dry. Chelated iron can be expensive, and may stain equipment, sidewalks and driveways.  Using Iron based products for weed control Univ. of Maryland.

Corn gluten meal is an organic pre-emergent weed killer that can help prevent seeds, including many lawn weeds, from sprouting. Universities have found spring and fall applications can reduce the weed population in lawns by 50% to 80% in three years.

No one recommends using Borax in your lawn any more!  If used improperly it can kill everything in the treated area for years.  Boron, the active ingredient, can stay in the soil for a long time. 




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Getting the jump on creeping weeds

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Getting the jump on creeping weeds

Let’s take a look at a few creeping weeds we could do without, shall we?!

Buckthorn is the bane of landowners.  Just because a plant is great in Europe, does not mean it’s great for the U.S.  It’s invasive here!

Buckthorn bark

Buckthorn bark

Buckthorn is leafing out right now and can be easily spotted by its silvery-gray park with white lenticels, bright green, rounded young leaves and the sharp thorn on the ends of branches.  Click on the Buckthorn link for information on getting rid of it!

Garlic Mustard sounds good on a brat but not in your landscape.  It is also listed as a noxious weed.  This biennial is stealthy.  Its  cute, tidy rosette of scalloped leaves can be mistaken for a hollyhock.  Beginning gardeners or gardeners new to the area may be afraid to remove it.  An easy identifying feature: garlic-scented leaves. (Plan to throw away your gloves after pulling these plants).  Here’s the deal, this one you’ll want chemical help to eradicate.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Here’s another take on Garlic Mustard from Edible Wild Food.

Creeping bellflower has a European cousin – and it’s not the one we want to visit.

Campanula Rapunculoides aka Creeping Bellflower

Campanula Rapunculoides aka Creeping Bellflower

Campanula rapunculoides is an aggressive plant that doesn’t want to leave once it’s found a footing. Creeping bellflower forms mats of thick, tuber-like rhizomatous roots. It is a prolific seeder and quickly outcompetes more desirable plants for moisture and nutrients. This plant leafs out early, making it easy to spot treat with a broadleaf herbicide and easier to remove by hand while desirable plants are still emerging.



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Fertilizing annuals and perennials

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Fertilizing annuals and perennials

Yes, there’s a difference.  Because annuals live their entire life cycle in one season, they do well with more fertilizer treatments.  Also, if they’re in containers, the fertilizer runs out much quicker.  Perennials have the advantage of establishing their roots deeper in the soil and the fertilizer lingers longer.

Gerbera daisies

Gerbera daisies

Always follow package directions OR use less!  Never use more.  For great blooms, use a 10-20-10 fertilizer.  The middle number is phosphorus and is responsible for fruits, blooms and roots.

N = Nitrogen – foliage

P = Phosphorus – blooms/fruits and roots

K = Potassium – overall plant health

If it’s fantastic foliage then go for a 20-10-10 fertilizer.  You can rarely go wrong with an all-purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10.  Perennials could use a little power boost each Spring, so now would be a good time to fertilize them.  You can always top dress your plants as well.  Adding compost right on top of the soil works for water retention and gives them some macro and micro nutrients.

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia


If you’re perennials look pooped they may just need some fertilizer.  They could be overcrowded too.  Typically MOST perennials need to be divided every 3 years.

NOTE:  the WAVE petunias and pansies could do with a little more fertilizer because they grow so fast, and to such beautiful lengths.   Plant them with slow release fertilizer and give them an extra boost every couple of weeks, especially if they’re in containers.

Cool Wave 'frost'


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