Yellow Improved Zahara zinnia fronts Marquee Red Carpet (left) and Marquee Blonde Bombshell coleus. Glitz euphorbia airs out the planting.© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
I just can’t say enough about how really nice the Zahara series of zinnias is. These annuals have no disease issues and just bloom their heads off.
I’ve been happy with all of the zinnias in the Zahara series and this year, I trialed a fairly new one, Yellow Improved, from Burpee. My favorite is Zahara Starlight Rose, a 2010 All-America Selection. Other colors include pink, orange, white and cherry. These are readily available at garden centers and seed merchants.
Great for the in the ground, pots or window boxes, the bright yellow, daisy-like flowers get about 18 inches tall, which is just enough to cut for small bouquets. The Zahara series is drought tolerant, so it can be planted where it’s hard to water.
Two coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) from Burpee played really nicely together in a pot. The colors and leaf forms of Marquee Red Carpet and Marquee Blonde Bombshell complimented each other and easily filled the 18-inch wide container.
Plant breeders are working to delay the blooms on coleus and these fall into that late-flowering category. In fact, Blonde Bombshell never formed flower stalks.
Proven Winners’ verbena Superbena Royale Cherryburst was lovely planted with petunia Supertunia Black Cherry. The dark, richly colored petunia perfectly paired with the burst of the white and cherry verbena.
Mixed in a couple of pots was Glitz, a new Euphorbia from Burpee. I really could not tell much difference between Glitz and some of the other euphorbias on the market, including Diamond Frost.
American Garden Award Winner
Illumination Flame garnered top honors in the 2014 American Garden Award program.
Photo courtesy Peace Tree Farm
A new species of foxglove garnered the top spot in the 2014 American Garden Award program. The Garfield Park Arts Center is one of about 30 gardens participating in North America, where visitors can vote for their favorite plants.
Illumination Flame Digiplexis was the grand winner. This tender perennial is not winter hardy here, but earns its keep with season-long blooms. Look for more Digiplexis on the market next spring. Shop early, though, because they will be popular.
Second place was Sanguna Radiant Blue petunia, which was my personal favorite. The flower is edged in crisp blue with a white center. Third was Celosia Arrabona Red, which I trialed last year and loved for its stunningly showy flowers.
Sweet Heat pepper. Photo courtesy Burpee.com
For the first time in a few years, the peppers popped in my garden. This surprises me because it was a cool summer and we all know peppers like it hot.
The three peppers I grew were trial plants: Sweet Heat and Tangerine Dream from Burpee and Wonder Bell, a grafted pepper from Jung Seed.
Wonder Bell and Sweet Heat were the best producers among the three, however Tangerine Dream was still loaded with green fruit in mid October. Tangerine Dream, considered an edible ornamental pepper, was a good producer, but a bit slow to take on its namesake color.
Wonder Bell compares in production and size to California Wonder, a popular sweet pepper. Wonder Bell was completely disease free, a benefit, no doubt, of the grafting process. It also produced very well with a nice size, green fruit with lovely shades of orange red.
Sweet Heat also produced very well, quickly turning from green to red. The heat is mild, but more pronounced when the fruit is green. The heat fades a bit when the fruit turns red and sweetens up.
Tangerine Dream pepper. Photo courtesy Burpee.com
Each of these peppers was grown in 10-gallon Smart Pots and fertilized every two to three weeks with Authentic Haven Brand compost tea. The tea is made with dehydrated livestock manure, which steeps in a bucket of water for a few hours before use. I probably could have been more faithful with watering and fertilizing.
This is the year I realized that I have a lot more shade in my back yard. A neighbor’s redbud has grown significantly, casting deeper shadows in my sunny growing spots. But it is not doing well, showing symptoms of verticillium wilt disease, so it probably won’t be standing much longer.
And there’s a weedy mulberry that shades the garden from mid to late afternoon sun, so when the tree comes down this spring, the yard should have a lot more light.
Still, I’ll probably move some things around in the garden next year. I’ve already started by pulling out plants I’m tired of or that have outgrown their space. I tell people all of the time that I’m always rearranging the plants in my garden, but seldom rearrange the furniture in my house.
Wonder Bell pepper. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Well-shod feet are great tools. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Even though I’ve been a gardener for a long time, it’s only been in the last five years or so that I’ve invested in tools for my feet.
A few things got me thinking about shoes and the garden.
- Foot fatigue and pain from digging because tennis shoes aren’t built for this task. Lack of foot support in shoes.
- Tracking dirt and mud in the crevices of shoes.
- Working when conditions are wet or muddy, making wearing tennis shoes unpleasant.
I did some research, talked to gardeners and horticulturists about their preferences and ended up buying waterproof Keen oxfords. I’ve had about five pairs of these shoes and am thrilled with them. I’ve also got a pair of Merrell waterproof oxfords, but they are not as comfortable as the Keens.
Why do I bring this up? Because through gardening, we’ve learned the value of the right equipment for the job. Our feet are one of our greatest digging tools, so having them shod with the right gear only makes the job easier. So, go out there and plant a tree!
Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit
An exhibit of southwestern still life art begins Nov. 2 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates early 20th century artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe. Although southwestern landscapes, plants and artifacts are the exhibit’s theme, the museum’s collection includes one of O’Keeffe’s most famous works, “Jimson Weed.”
There are several lovely ornamental cultivars of jimson weed (D. metel), including single and double trumpet-like flowers. Common names for this plant are Devil’s trumpet or horn of plenty flower. A similar plant is Angel’s trumpet or Brugmansia.
Angel trumpet is tropical and must spend the winter indoors. Datura is an annual in our climate and can be grown easily from seed. Datura’s fragrant flowers open in evening.
Native plant seminar
Migrating monarch butterflies rely on late-blooming, native perennials, such as goldenrod.
“Embracing Indiana’s Conservation Challenges” is the theme of this year’s annual conference of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, Nov. 1 in Bloomington at the Monroe County Convention Center.
Early registration discounts apply if you register before Oct. 15. For details, inpaws.org.
Among the speakers is Lincoln Brower, a professor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and lifelong monarch butterfly researcher, who will speak about his favorite insect.
Slice the peppers, place on a cookie sheet and freeze. When frozen, move peppers to a plastic bag and return to the freezer. Nothing could be easier. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The last gasps of the growing season yield an onslaught of tomatoes and peppers and these are vegetables that don’t keep very well without some type of preservation.
After reading Minnesota garden writer Rhonda Fleming Hayes‘ column a few weeks ago, I decided to freeze them. Easy peasy.
Frozen pepper slices ready for the freezer. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
I placed slices of peppers and tomatoes on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, I slide the slices off of the cookie sheet into plastic bags put them in the freezer. The frozen peppers and tomatoes can be used in chili, soup and sauces.
For more information about preserving your food at home, check out Purdue Extension’s programs, http://bit.ly/1vovIHl
If you don’t want to mess with freezing, canning or dehydrating your vegetables, you can share your bounty with soup kitchens and food pantries around the city and state. Here are a few:
- Society of St. Vincent dePaul, www.svdpindy.org
- Gleaners Food Bank, www.gleaners.org
- Second Helpings, http://www.secondhelpings.org
- Julian Center Food Pantry, http://bit.ly/1xtGJJD
- Feeding America, http://bit.ly/1pBG0gt
- Food Pantries, www.foodpantries.org/ci/in-indianapolis.
The Rescue stink bug trap works, but it won’t catch all of these Asian invaders, which want to get into your house.
The brown marmorated stink bugs are back at this this year, working diligently to get into our homes. This is the second year these Asian imports have shown up in significant numbers in Indiana. They are brown bugs, about the size of a dime. They look like shields with legs and emit a cilantro-like smell when threatened or killed.
“I can’t tell you how many I’ve had in the house since last summer,” Julie Iverson, a Marion County Master Gardener, posted on Facebook. “One scared the living daylights out of me when I was reading in bed the other night. Yikes!”
On Sept. 20, I installed a Rescue brand trap, which works on pheromones to attract the sinkers. The trap covers draws from a 30-foot area. Normally, I’m not very enthused about traps, such as for Japanese beetles, because they are so effective. But bug experts I’ve talked to say the stink bug trap is slightly better because it pulls from a smaller area. Hopefully, it will get the bugs in your yard and not pull them in from the neighborhood. And though effective, the trap will never catch all of the stink bugs. I hate to think how many make it into my house. A while back, there were two sitting on the button to turn on my radio.
Vegetables and fruits
At the end of the season harvest tomatoes and peppers to finish ripening indoors. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
If you haven’t already, start bringing in houseplants that spent the summer outdoors. Temperatures have fallen into the 50s some nights, and that’s the indicator that houseplants need to head back indoors.
Give them a shower with the hose to knock off any six-legged hitchhikers before bringing them in. If you have plants already indoors, consider segregating for a week or so the ones moving in to make sure there are no diseases or insects that will spread.
A few days ago, I snipped off all of the tomatoes that had started to turn creamy or white to finish ripening indoors. Then, I pulled the plants. A lot of gardeners toss their tomato plants in the trash rather than the compost pile because of concerns about diseases, such a verticillium wilt or a blight. If the compost pile does not get hot enough, diseases, insects and weed seeds may not be destroyed. Problems can be spread throughout the garden when incomplete compost is used in planting or as a mulch. Here’s a good EPA guide for composting at home: http://1.usa.gov/1rqJUOZ.
Concern about the spread of disease and insects holds for other plants in the garden, too. If your perennials have shown any sign of a problem, such as premature leaf browning or aphid damage, cut them back and remove any fallen leaves. If the plant seems to have the same problem every year, consider pulling it out and planting something else. Life is too short to fret about uncooperative, high maintenance, worrisome plants.
A blue green pumpkin sits amid mini cabbages for a fall planting. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
While you are at it, pot up a fall container. Garden centers have a decent selection of annuals that tolerate lower temperatures, including pansies, osteospermum, petunias and calibrachoa. These are good companions for ornamental cabbage, kale and grasses, Swiss chard, mums and asters. Add a pumpkin, gourd or ornamental corn for more seasonal flair.
September is the best month to fertilize the lawn. Everyone thinks it’s sometime in spring, but at that time, the grass is greening up and growing anyway because of warmer temperatures. Fertilizing in spring increases mowing duties.
Fertilizing the lawn in September, and again in November, encourages good root development, which translates into a thick, healthy lawn that naturally crowds out weeds. I use Ringer Lawn Restore, an organic fertilizer, but there are other products formulated for fall application.
Lastly, perform an act of hope and faith and plant a few spring blooming bulbs. You’ll be glad you did when the snow melts and tulips, daffodils and other spring flowers harken another growing season.
The American beautyberry serves as a food source for songbirds. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service
Noted horticulturist and author Stephanie Cohen blew into town a couple of weeks ago to talk about companion shrubs for her favorite plants, perennials.
Shrubs provide the texture and structure for perennials, which fade in and out with the season. Cohen, known affectionately as the Perennial Diva, discussed more than 50 woody plants that work well with perennials. Her talk was sponsored by the Indianapolis Museum of Art Horticultural Society.
Experienced gardeners know that shrubs are less maintenance than most perennials. “We’re a maturing population, so the (plant) choices we make are important,” said Cohen, a retired horticulture professor. Very few people are just doing perennials beds nowadays. Gardeners mix perennials with herbs, shrubs, annuals and containers. “This makes a more interesting garden.”
From Cohen’s list of plants, here are three of my favorites.
Dwarf fothergilla (F. gardenii) has white, lightly honey-scented, bottlebrush-like flowers in spring. In summer, the foliage has a blue green look, and in fall, the leaves turn a brilliant red or orange. This native is hardy throughout Indiana, dwarf fothergilla gets about 3 feet tall and wide. Does fine in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil. This is a good companion for spring-blooming bulbs and perennials. “If I had only shrub to pick, this would be the one,” Cohen said.
The Eastern U.S. native fothergilla blooms in spring, making it a perfect companion for tulips, daffodils and other bulbs. © Kongxinzhu/iStockphoto.com
Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana or C. dichotoma) sports beautiful clusters of purple berries on nicely arched branches this time of year. In summer, the shrub presents a graceful backdrop to perennials, waiting patiently for its time to shine. Beautyberry does best in full sun, but tolerates part shade. Size ranges from about 4 to 8 feet tall and wide, depending on the cultivar. Works well with summer-blooming and early fall-blooming perennials. The top part is killed by winter temperatures, so I usually cut beautyberry back close to the ground in spring. It quickly bounces back to bloom and berry.
A bumblebee burrows in for the night on a blue mist spirea. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Blue mist spirea or bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) is another late-season bloomer, presenting itself as a companion to asters and the fall-color of ornamental grasses. This is an aromatic shrub that attracts bees and butterflies to its tufts of blue flowers along slightly upright branches. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. This is another shrub I cut back to the ground in early spring.
Cohen returns to Indiana Oct. 4
Cohen will be back in Indiana for Hendricks County Master Gardeners 2014 Adventures in Gardening. She’ll talk about Native Perennials: Sustainable, Colorful and Wonderful and Perennials from Spring to Fall.
You know how it is. You’re on a walk and you see a plant and wonder what it is. Or, one of the plants in the garden starts to look really bad. Is it an insect, disease or something else?
There’s help for these and other questions right on your smart phone. Here’s the rundown.
Purdue University has released a handful of helpful apps, each costing $0.99, available at iTunes or Android stores.
Purdue Perennial Doctor identifies insects and diseases of 100 of the most commonly planted perennials in the Midwest and eastern United States. You plug in the plant name from a list, say it’s a disease of flowers, leaves, stems or crown. The app pulls up what the likely cause might be.
For instance, say you have brown spots on peony leaves. You tell the app that it’s a leaf problem and it will show images of the diseases or insects that affect peony foliage and offer tips on what to do. Purdue Annual Doctor, Tree Doctor and Tomato Doctor work the same way.
Purdue’s Plant Diagnostic Sample Submission allows you to send a photo of the problem to the Pest Diagnostic Laboratory for identification and remedies. There’s an $11 submission fee. Submissions can be digital or you can mail a sample of the plant. For more details: www.ppdl.purdue.edu/ppdl/services.html.
Marion County Master Gardener AnswerLine is a free resource. You can call (317) 271-9292 with your questions. Master Gardener volunteers research the problem and call you back within a day or two.
Or, you can email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Emailing gives you the opportunity to include photos to help Master Gardeners solve the problem. Make sure the photos are in focus and show enough of the plant to help identify it, such as leaves, flowers and branching characteristics. The photos also should be large enough, about 500KB so they can be expanded to help with identification.
Garden Compass is a free app to identify plants, pests and diseases. You take a photo of the problem, give as much information as possible, such as locale and what you observe. Provide a close-up image of the foliage, branching or other identifying characteristics. It’s frequently difficult to identify a plant or problem from a photo taken far away. The photo is sent to an expert in your region to help identify the problem and make suggestions on what to do.
A pink Art Nouveau grabs the center of attention amid Purple Haze dahlias.© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Dahlias have never been a favorite of mine, mainly because they always seemed persnickety — prone to mildew, rot and spider mites to name a few challenges.
But this year, Longfield Gardens offered to send me some samples of these tender tubers, and, well, you can never have too many plants to try.
I was about a month late when I planted them up in containers in June. Even though July was cool, the plants took off and started their season of bloom. And did they ever. Maybe enough to change my mind.
For one thing, they are still going strong, long after other annuals have taken on a tired look. They likely will keep blooming until frost. And no sign of mildew, although a little damage from mites.
Dahlias come in many colors, forms and sizes, as large as dinner plates, which usually need staking, and others more diminutive.
Mine are border anemone dahlias, reaching 18 to 24 inches tall with flowers a bit bigger than a golf ball. Although not long-stemmed, they are tall enough for small cut flower arrangements.
When it comes to fall, we have two options: leave them in the ground and let nature take them, or dig the tubers for winter storage.
If digging, wait until the tops of dahlias are killed by frost. Discard any damaged tubers. Rinse the soil from the healthy tubers. Many dahlia experts recommend treating tubers with a fungicide, such as sulfur powder, before storing. Allow to dry, wrap in plastic or place in bags of wood shavings or similar material. Store the tubers out of light, where they won’t freeze or get so warm the they sprout.
In past years, I’ve moved dahlias, pot and all, to my basement for the winter, where they go dormant and require no water. In spring, I move the pot to my enclosed porch to acclimate the plants to more light and begin watering. They go outdoors in mid May.
In early April, take the tubers out of winter storage and plant in pots and place in a bright area indoors. Fertilize with a water-soluble product, according to label directions. In mid May, transplant dahlias outdoors in the garden or in containers. Dahlias do best in full sun or light shade in well-drained soil.
For more information about growing dahlias, check out the American Dahlia Society. Elkhart has the only Indiana chapter.
Evergreen needle drop. Photo courtesy Un. of Nebraska Extension
Don’t be alarmed if evergreens, especially white pine and arborvitae, drop needles. All evergreens shed needles at some time, but not all at once like deciduous plants do.
- Apply high-nitrogen fertilizer to lawns at the rate of 1 pound actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Here’s more info on taking care of established lawns.
- Plant container-grown or balled-and-burlapped nursery stock. Mulch well and keep newly planted stock well watered until the ground freezes.
- Reseed bare spots or put in new lawns using a good quality seed mixture. Fall is the best time to do lawn repairs or put in a new one.
- Early fall is a good time to apply broadleaf weed killers. Follow label directions and spray on a calm day to prevent drift.
- Continue watering gardens, shrubs and trees if rainfall doesn’t reach an inch or more every week or 10 days. It’s important for plants to go into cold weather with adequate moisture.
- Prepare new beds now for planting next spring. The soil is usually easier to work in the falland fall-prepared beds allow for earlier plantings inspring. Beds may be mulched with compost, chopped leaves or other organic material during the winter, if desired. Avoid fall tilling when there’s a chance of soil erosion.
- Apply a layer of organic materials to garden beds in the fall. This includes rotted or composted manure, compost, chopped leaves or a slow-release organic fertilizer.
- Plant, transplant or divide peonies, daylilies, poppies, iris, phlox and other perennials.
- Order spring-flowering bulbs or purchase locally. Begin planting them at the end of the month. Planting too early can cause top growth to sprout before winter; allow four to six weeks for good root formation before ground freezes.
- Dig tender bulbs, such as cannas, caladiums, tuberous begonias and gladiolus, before frost. Air dry and store in dry peat moss or vermiculite.
- Cut flowers in the garden for drying and use in everlasting arrangements. Strawflower, statice, baby’s breath, celosia and other plants can be hung upside down in a well-ventilated dry area.
Vegetables and fruits
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