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New hydrangeas for 2015

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  New hydrangeas for 2015

Hydrangeas are one of those shrubs I just love.  They do well in part shade, they’re relatively care-free, they make friendly fences and their blooms hang on for lovely winter interest. White Flower Farms is offering a new Proven Winners Big leaf Hydrangea Macrophylla called ‘Paraplu’.

Hydrangea 'Paraplu'

Hydrangea ‘Paraplu’

The name comes from the Dutch word for umbrella.  The intensely pink flower clusters look like little parasols.  It’s a nice compact size at growing to just 3 feet.  It’s zone 5 hardy but could be grown in zone 4 with mulch.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Firelight’ has garnered a lot of attention for it’s zone 4 hardiness and it’s changing flower color.

Hydrangea 'Firelight'

Hydrangea ‘Firelight’

The blooms start out pure white in mid-summer gradually turning deep reddish pink, exhibiting the full spectrum of color until fall. The strong stems support these large, 12–16? flower heads without flopping.  ‘Firelight’ grows up to 6 feet.  Talk about a friendly fence for your border or lovely foundation planting!

Another unusual looking hydrangea for 2015 is another macrophylla called ‘Double Delights StarGazer’.  You’ve heard of the stargazer lily?  The blooms on this hydrangea mirror those colors of pink and white.

Hydrangea 'Double Delights Stargazer'

Hydrangea ‘Double Delights Stargazer’

The clusters of this zone 5 lacecap are like a constellation.  They’re also much larger petals than the hydrangeas we’re used to seeing.  The double blooms appear on both old and new wood.

Proven Winners Hydrangeas Demystified for a look at the different types and how to care for them.

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Hydrangeas for 2015

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Hydrangeas for 2015

Hydrangeas are one of those shrubs I just love.  They do well in part shade, they’re relatively care-free, they make friendly fences and their blooms hang on for lovely winter interest. White Flower Farms is offering a new Proven Winners Big leaf Hydrangea Macrophylla called ‘Paraplu’.

Hydrangea 'Paraplu'

Hydrangea ‘Paraplu’

The name comes from the Dutch word for umbrella.  The intensely pink flower clusters look like little parasols.  It’s a nice compact size at growing to just 3 feet.  It’s zone 5 hardy but could be grown in zone 4 with mulch.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Firelight’ has garnered a lot of attention for it’s zone 4 hardiness and it’s changing flower color.

Hydrangea 'Firelight'

Hydrangea ‘Firelight’

The blooms start out pure white in mid-summer gradually turning deep reddish pink, exhibiting the full spectrum of color until fall. The strong stems support these large, 12–16? flower heads without flopping.  ‘Firelight’ grows up to 6 feet.  Talk about a friendly fence for your border or lovely foundation planting!

Another unusual looking hydrangea for 2015 is another macrophylla called ‘Double Delights StarGazer’.  You’ve heard of the stargazer lily?  The blooms on this hydrangea mirror those colors of pink and white.

Hydrangea 'Double Delights Stargazer'

Hydrangea ‘Double Delights Stargazer’

The clusters of this zone 5 lacecap are like a constellation.  They’re also much larger petals than the hydrangeas we’re used to seeing.  The double blooms appear on both old and new wood.

Proven Winners Hydrangeas Demystified tells you all about the different types of hydrangeas and their care

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Sow it and forget it

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Sow it and forget it

A friend of mine does this every year.  He tosses seeds of leaf lettuce, radishes and even brussel sprouts on his garden this time of year and walks away.  Sow it and forget it!

radishes

If you cleaned up your garden last year, then toss the seeds willy nilly onto the surface, no rows, and let them be.  No putting more soil on top, no watering, just walk away.

When the weather warms, the seeds will sprout, thin them just a little and you’ll be eating some wonderful salads before anyone else.

looseleaf lettuce 'Flying Saucer'

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Let’s get bulb planting

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Let’s get bulb planting

Yesterday we talked about the differences there are in the “category” Bulbs!  Rhizomes, corms and tubers too!  Speaking of tubers, some of my favorites are Caladiums…

Caladium 'Frieda Hemple'

Caladium ‘Frieda Hemple’

There are slightly different planting techniques for each of the types of bulbs. First, make sure your bulbs are in good shape.  NO mushy parts!  They should feel firm.  You need at least one eye per division.   Here’s a brief general overview of planting indoors early in the season:

  • Bulbs – plant with pointy side up about 3 inches into the pot
  • Rhizomes – eyes should be looking up at you just peeking above the soil surface
  • Corms – plant hollow side up at the same level as the soil
  • Tubers – knobby side up, one to two inches deep in the pot

Plant in a potting soil mix or a 50/50 mix of potting soil and vermiculite or perlite for better drainage.  Then move to a warm location.  Once the leaves emerge, get them to the light! Please note that you may find different instructions for the different types of flowers!   For much more comprehensive information check out this special site through the University of Minnesota Extension.  Check out Bulb Basics [University of Illinois]

Canna 'Red King Humbert'

Canna ‘Red King Humbert’

Tuberous begonia

Tuberous begonia

Here’s a beautiful new gladiola from gladiola.com out of Connecticut…

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What’s in a bulb

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  What’s in a bulb?

What’s in a bulb? Is it really a bulb? Is it a rhizome? Is it a corm? Is it a tuberous root? And what’s the difference? Let’s start with what they have in common. They’re all underground storage units.

All the things they need to sprout and flower are stored in their fleshy structures underneath the soil.

The above photo is a little tough to read due to certain size restrictions for my uploads, however, in the upper left corner is a rhizome, the upper right corner is a runner (think strawberry), smack in the middle is a true bulb, lower left is a tuber and, finally, a corm in the lower right.

Once their leaves are up and at attention, those leaves will manufacture the food that will be sent back down to those fleshy structures underground for storage for next years flowers.

Examples:

  • Bulb – tulips, daffodils, lilies, amaryllis
  • Rhizome – bearded  iris, cannas, calla lilies
  • Corm – crocus, gladiolas, ginger, bermuda grass
  • Tuber – dahlias, caladiums, begonias, potato
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More pruning notes

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  More pruning notes

Spring WILL get here.  In the meantime, there are numerous home and garden shows out there.

La la la

This link will take you to some garden options!  Festivals in Minnesota  Be sure to check your favorite radio station’s website for upcoming garden shows and expos.

It’s also a great time to prune your woodies, overgrown shrubs that are obscuring your view or the door to your house!  I talked before about maintenance pruning, taking out the dead or diseased branches.  A cruise down any neighborhood street will show that a lot of folks need to do a bit more than that!  Cutting back and shaping their shrubs and trees.  I’m going to link you to a few sites from gardenbite dot com for some visual aid:

University of Minnesota Extension How to Prune

Organic Gardening What to prune and when

Purdue University dept. of Horticulture Pruning ornamentals

Do NOT prune Oak trees in April, May or June.  During this time the Oak is more susceptible to Oak Wilt disease.

Oak wilt photo by Michele Grabowski UMN

Also Maple trees and others that have sap that runs during early Spring must be left alone until after the sap has stopped running.

Our moisture level in the soil continues to be low and without much snowfall, at least as of this writing, (March 2015) we’re looking at a deficit.  This is something to keep in mind when you wonder what happened to the decline of your trees.  Our large plants can take a lot more abuse, but, it does take it’s toll, that’s why, when homeowners see their trees decline, they think it just happened when in reality it’s been an accumulation of issues.

 

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Small space garden plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Small space garden plants

A small space doesn’t mean you can’t have a garden!  I have a raised bed for my vegetables but I also plant in pots.

Tomato 'Power pops' in container

Tomato ‘Power pops’ in container

I like cucumbers but I don’t like the space they take up in my raised bed.

raised vegetable bed

Cucumber ‘Patio Snacker’ is the perfect size to plant in a 15 inch pot with a trellis for the 3 to 5 foot vines to grow on.  It’s fruits are 6 to 8 inches with non-bitter skin.  And they mature in 50 days!

Cucumber 'Patio Snacker' Territorial Seed

Cucumber ‘Patio Snacker’ Territorial Seed

For fruit trees in a small space, I recommend trying the “getting ever more popular” columnar apples.  ‘Blushing Delight’ produces abundant green apples blushed with red – ripening in September.  It grows to just 8 feet tall and only needs 3 feet spacing between.

Columnar apple 'Blushing Delight'

Columnar apple ‘Blushing Delight’

Apple trees need another variety for cross pollination.  Might I suggest ‘Tangy Green’ or Columnar Red?  These trees can also be planted in containers.  If you’re in zone 4, give them protection if planted in a container.  Plants in the soil only need mulch.

Columnar Red apple

Columnar Red apple

These are also called Colonnade apples.

Colonnade Flamenco

Colonnade Flamenco

Loose leaf lettuce can be packed tight and because you can harvest it early, you can interplant it with tomatoes and other later season vegetables.  There are a LOT of different varieties.  One of my favorites is a mesclun mix.

Mesclun mix

Mesclun mix

loose leaf lettuce

Or maybe you’d like swiss chard, packed with phytonutrients.

Swiss chard 'Bright Lights'

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’

Patio or cherry tomatoes are a great choice for small spaces.  ‘Sweetheart of the Patio’ cherry toms are the perfect choice for delicious flavor, disease resistance and they’re determinate.  That means they’ll grow to 3 feet and stop yet deliver plenty of tasty fruit.  It matures in 68 days. ‘Bush Early Girl II’ is meatier yet very tasty and delivers in 54 days.  It’s also disease resistant and determinate.

Tomato 'Bush Early Girl' hybrid

Tomato ‘Bush Early Girl’ hybrid

Tomato 'Sweetheart of the Patio'

Tomato ‘Sweetheart of the Patio’

Most determinate varieties of tomatoes are the ticket for your small space.  Also consider bush or dwarf type plants, such as bush beans for containers or in the garden.  Dwarf bean ‘Speedy’.

Remember too, that you can take advantage of the time it takes for your tomatoes to grow and plant things like radishes and lettuce in that same area.  When they’re done is when your tomatoes are really starting to grow.

Going vertical is a great way to save space.  I used an old mattress spring secured into my raised bed with bamboo poles to grow squash on.

squash hanging in nylon

squash hanging in nylon

 

Grapes on trellis

Grapes on trellis

 

 

 

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Something old, something new

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Something old, something new

As I pondered what to talk about today, I was struck by a gorgeous lily I just have to share with you.  White Flower Farm sends me emails enticing me to purchase their plants.  I rarely do, not because they don’t have a good reputation but because I try to buy locally.  However, this beauty has me thinking…  It’s a rare find of an old lily that I likely didn’t pronounce correctly in my podcast as my resource, Fine Gardening pronunciation guide website, is currently being updated! It’s called Lilium auratum var. platyphyllum, it’s from the golden rayed species and it’s a stunner.

Lilium auratum platyphyllum

Lilium auratum platyphyllum

Lilium auratum platyphyllum 2

Lilium auratum platyphyllum 3

Touted as  intensely fragrant, this Species Lily has huge, 10? bowl-shaped blooms with broad gold stripes and a light sprinkling of crimson spots.  It would appear that the crimson spots vary but the bold gold stripe does not.  This plant grows up to 4 feet and blooms in July and August.  It is zone 5 hardy, so you’ll need to give it some protection.  Underplanting to keep it’s roots cool is a good idea too.  Wild geraniums would work well.

Wild Cranesbill aka geraniums

Wild Cranesbill aka geraniums

Now for something new for mass consumption, an Astilbe that hails from Japan.  An award-winner, this native of Japan is easily distinguished by its dark foliage. The rich chocolate-maroon leaves provide a high contrast background for the blushed pink, white flower spikes. It’s called ‘Chocolate Shogun’ and it thrives in part shade.

Astilbe 'Chocolate Shogun'

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’

The leaves are reminiscent of a ninebark shrub but it’s a herbaceous perennial hardy to zone 4.  It really is grown for it’s deep burgundy foliage, the flowers are more of an afterthought.  With all astilbes, it needs moisture.  Make sure it doesn’t suffer through a drought or you won’t have a plant left.

Astilbe 'Chocolate Shogun' flowers

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’ flowers

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More money for Monarchs

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  More money for Monarchs

 

Monarchs in my backyard

Monarchs in my backyard

The photos were taken in 2007 in Lakeville, MN.  There were hundreds in the trees…  that was the only time that happened.

In a move this month to save the Monarch butterfly, the U.S. government has pledged $3.2 million.  As we’ve talked about before, the plight of the Monarch has plunged ever more quickly to the endangered species list.  The iconic orange-and-black butterfly that can migrate thousands of miles between the U.S. and Mexico each year is but a mere shadow of it’s former glory.  The numbers show a 90% decline in recent years.  YIKES

Monarchs in Lakeville

About $2 million will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat from California to the Corn Belt, including more than 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. The rest will be used to start a conservation fund — the first dedicated solely to monarchs — that will provide grants to farmers and other landowners to conserve habitat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The monarch lays its eggs exclusively on the milkweed plant. Conversion of prairies into cropland and the increasing use of weed killer-resistant crops have greatly reduced the extent of milkweed.

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar

Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

The conservation projects will be focused on the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, areas that provide important spring and summer habitat along the butterfly’s migration path. The species also faces challenges in Mexico, where its primary wintering grounds are being threatened by logging and climate change.

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

Monarchs are pollinators and indicators of broader environmental problems.  Gardeners don’t have to feel helpless, we can help by planting milkweed.  Little patches matter.  Learn more at monarchwatch.org

Common milkweed

Common milkweed

monarch butterflies 1

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Bewitching Witch Hazel

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bewitching Witch Hazel

From my Northern Gardener magazine to my plethora of plant catalogs, Witch hazel seems to be the bewitching shrub for 2015.  And why not?  It’s flowers are fragrant and unique, it’s easy to grow and some our native…

Witch hazel 'Jelena'

Witch hazel ‘Jelena’

Witch hazel has never been a shrub I’ve thought of but after seeing ‘Jelena’ advertised in one of my catalogs, I had to further investigate.  While this particular cultivar is listed as zone 5, some are hardy to zone 3.  Those would be the Common Witch hazel or ham-ah-MAY-lis ver-jin-ee-AY-nah.  It’s ribbon-like flowers are yellow and bloom in Fall.  ‘Jelena’ is a late winter/early spring bloomer with coppery petals all bunched up around a red center.

These shrubs prefer part shade to full sun and moist but well-drained, acidic to neutral soil.  If you live in a colder climate and plant the zone 5 cultivar, then place it in a more protected spot.  As always, keep in mind it’s mature measurements as you plant!  If the soil is deep and rich enough, Hamamelis, it’s Latin name, can take alkaline soils. Pruning is minimal, if any.

Witch hazel - common

Witch hazel – common

It’s foliage is often hairy.  The leaves scalloped or toothed.  There are 4 species of witch hazel – two are native to the United States.  Common and Spring witch hazel.  Then there’s Chinese and Japanese.  ‘Jelena’ is a 5th hybrid that happened accidently when Chinese and Japanese were crossed.  All of them are fragrant but the Chinese are more intense.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has a great article too, Which witch hazel should be in your yard?

Witch hazel 'Diane'

Witch hazel ‘Diane’

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