September 2016

The strong-stemmed Prince Tut papyrus earns its crown

The strong-stemmed Prince Tut papyrus adds grace and texture to a pot. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The strong-stemmed Prince Tut papyrus adds grace and texture to a pot.
(C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

King Tut Egyptian papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) was a show stopper when it was introduced several years ago, favored for its dramatic height in a large container or in the ground. It really did well along the margins of ponds and in water gardens.

If there was a drawback, it was weak, 5-6 foot tall stems, which bent and broke in the wind or with handing.

Then, along came another papyrus Baby Tut umbrella grass (C. involucratus), which was a much more manageable 18-24 inches tall. Although considerable shorter than King Tut, the stems still were not very sturdy.

This year, Proven Winners sent me Prince Tut Egyptian papyrus to trial and I love it. At 30-48 inches tall, Prince Tut is between King and Baby. The foliage is light and airy and the stems are very strong. So far none has broken, even from the periodic strong winds we’ve had this summer.

The fine, grass-like foliage atop the stems is clean and beautiful, adding just enough height and texture to make any of its companion plants shine.

Cyperus papyrus is the plant that yields papyrus of ancient Egyptian times. They used the plant for lots of things from paper to boats and sandals to rope. Papyrus adapts well to wet areas. Prince Tut has gone dry a few times, but has not suffered one bit.

Besides its size, the form of this plant is an attribute, too. It is fuller than King or Baby Tuts. Like its kin, Prince Tut is very heat tolerant and does fine in full sun to part shade. It is not winter hardy here, so it never reaches the size to harvest for paper. We grow it as an annual. Look for Prince Tut next year in garden centers.

Hold off on pruning shrubs now

Save the date Ellen Zachos, author of “Backyard Foraging,” will give a free talk on that subject at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 29, in DeBoest Lecture Hall at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. © Rob Cardillo

Save the date
Ellen Zachos, author of “Backyard Foraging,” will give a free talk on that subject at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 29, in DeBoest Lecture Hall at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
© Rob Cardillo

The temptation is great this time of year to shape up the shrubs. Don’t.

Pruning forces new growth. The new leaves and branch tips will not have enough time to harden off or prepare for winter. Freezing temperatures will likely kill the new growth and possibly damage the plant.

Evergreens are the most vulnerable to late-season pruning. Keep this in mind this winter when snipping a few branches of holly and other evergreens for indoor holiday decoration or outdoor seasonal arrangements. Cutting off a few branches is fine, but be judicious and selective.

Pruning spring-blooming shrubs now, such as forsythia, weigela, lilac, viburnum and several kinds of hydrangea, removes next year’s flower buds. It’s best to prune these plants within a few weeks after they bloom.

Lastly, remember that pruning is not required. Pruning should always be done for a purpose, such as reining in size or removing an errant or damaged branch. If you’re always pruning for size then consider moving the plant to a better location.

Reduce maintenance by allowing the shrubs and trees to be themselves, embracing their natural form. Plants that are pruned or sheared into certain shapes require regular maintenance. If you do prune, remember to keep the branches at the base of the plant slightly wider than the middle or top. If the top or middle branches are wider, they shade the base of the plant, causing foliage, needles and branches to become sparse and eventually die.

Reblooming shrubs, such as Sonic Bloom weigela, Josee or Bloomerang lilac, Double Play spirea and the Endless Summer group of hydrangeas rarely need pruning, unless it’s to clean out dead branches. Removing spent flowers periodically encourages these shrubs to keep blooming. Most of these will bloom, rest for a few weeks, bloom and rest. A little TLC with a drink of water periodically also help keep the rebloomers happy.


Development threatens 300-year-old forest land at Crown Hill Cemetery

Anne Lake of Indiana Forest Alliance stands by a large burr oak in an area of Crown Hill Cemetery that has been sold for development. Photo courtesy Indiana Forest Alliance.

Anne Laker of Indiana Forest Alliance leans on a large burr oak in an area of Crown Hill Cemetery that has been sold for development. Photo courtesy Indiana Forest Alliance.

For the third time in 11 years, the oldest forested section of Crown Hill Cemetery is under threat of development.

Instead of apartment buildings, condos and retail, this time Crown Hill has sold 14.75 acres to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration. The property will allow for the expansion of Crown Hill National Cemetery and development of a columbarium, a specialized burying ground for cremated remains of about 25,000 veterans.

Crown Hill Woods Organizing Meeting

A community conversation to protect

the North Woods at Crown Hill Cemetery

6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016

40 W. 40th St., Indianapolis

Bids were to be let before the end of the year. An environmental analysis has been done by the federal government, which found no impact on the acreage. The area is the cemetery’s northern border and runs along 42nd Street between Clarendon and Michigan Road.

Area of Crown Hill Cemetery with 300-year-old trees. Photo courtesy Indiana Forest Alliance

Area of Crown Hill Cemetery with 300-year-old trees. Photo courtesy Indiana Forest Alliance

How the government reached a no-impact conclusion is a mystery. The plot, which is surrounded with dense honeysuckle shrubs and other weedy plants, holds dozens of centuries-old trees, including a 300-year-old burr oak.

Crown Hill and the National Cemetery Administration propose pretty much clear cutting the land and replanting 2-inch caliper trees as replacements. The size of those trees is 2-inch diameter at chest height, a far cry from the massive girth of 300-year-old specimens. To add to the irony, the National Cemetery Administration has started a drive to raise funds for the tree replacement.

Environmentalists and neighbors are upset about this whole process, because there was little public notice and no public hearing. A legal notice ran in the newspaper and there was something posted on the National Cemetery Administration’s website, but those are not places where people check regularly, said Jeff Stant, executive director of Indiana Forest Alliance.

This is believed to be the largest stand of older growth forest in the county, he said. When he met with the VA and the cemetery officials, “the drawings were totally different than what we thought they were planning to do,” Stant said.

Crown Hill did talk to some neighbors, said Rebecca Dolan, a professor at Butler University and director of the Friesner Herbarium on campus. But the plan presented did not indicate the trees would be taken down, she said.

What can we do? We can write our representatives in Washington and ask them to intercede on our behalf, said Dolan and Stant. Intervention by U.S. Sens. Joseph Donnelly and Dan Coats and U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks and Andre Carson will be required to hold a public meeting, they said.

Dolan said there is clear, grassy land at 42nd Street and Clarendon, which is primarily used as a parking lot for visitors to Penrod Arts Fair at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The older growth forested land is an indelible link to our past and heritage, and needs to be protected, Stant said.

The high season of lawncare is upon us

A great lawn starts in fall. Photo courtesy

A great lawn starts in fall. Photo courtesy

If you’re like most people, you’re into the lawn big time in spring. Fertilizing. Sowing grass seed. Applying crabgrass and dandelion killers. Interest wans during the summer, except for mowing, watering and worry about this or that patch of dead grass.

Then comes fall, and a lot of people think they are done with the lawn for the season, except for mowing and raking leaves. The reality is fall is for lawns.

Safe-Paws-zoom-0“The best time of year to take care of lawns is fall,” said John Harrison, who works in product support for Espoma, which has been making natural lawn and garden products since 1929. “Give lawns a checkup and keep soil healthy for the year to come. Plus, feeding your lawn with an organic plant food makes for happy and healthy people, pets and planet.”

If you have to sow a new lawn or patch bare spots, fall is the best time of year to do so, said Tim Duffy, Midwest territory manager of Jonathan Green lawn care products, which has been in business since 1881. “In spring, we’re waiting for the soil temperature to warm up so grass can germinate and you have a lot of competition with weed seeds germinating. In fall, the soil has had all summer to warm up, weed pressure isn’t as bad, cooler temperatures and better rain patterns return.”

Each of these companies has launched programs or initiatives to bring a more reasoned approach to lawn care by marketing natural products. Espoma’s campaign is targeted to families, pointing out its products are safe for kids and pets to play on the lawn. Jonathan Green’s New American Lawn program focuses more on soil health rather than chemicals.

Both of these companies give us something to think about. We dump a lot of chemicals on our lawn. In an online article published in May 2015, Consumer Reports found “the average lawn contains 10 times more chemicals per acre than a typical commercial farm.” It’s long been reported that consumers use more lawn chemicals than golf courses.

What can we do?

  • A healthy, actively growing lawn is your best defense against weeds, insects and diseases.
  • Fertilize the lawn in September and November. If you leave your grass clippings on the lawn during the summer, you may be able to do away with an application of spring fertilizer.
  • Know what you have before you treat it. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a waste of money, time and effort to apply chemicals if you don’t know what you are treating. Unneeded use of chemicals also is not good for the environment.

September Garden Checklist

At the end of the season harvest tomatoes and peppers to finish ripening indoors. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

At the end of the season harvest tomatoes and peppers to finish ripening indoors. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


  • Dig and repot herbs growing outdoors, or take cuttings to pot up and grow indoors.
  • Bring houseplants that spent the summer outdoors back indoors before night temperatures fall below 55 degrees. Gradually decrease light to acclimate plants and help reduce leaf drop. Check for insects and disease before putting them with other plants.
  • Plants, such as tuberous and waxed begonias, impatiens, fuschia and geraniums, may be dug from the ground or containers and repotted for indoor enjoyment during the winter. Cuttings also may be taken, rooted in a growing medium and repotted for the winter.
  • Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus can be forced into bloom. Provide plants 15 hours of complete darkness each day for about eight weeks. Keep temperature at about 60 to 65 degrees.
  • Poinsettias should be kept in complete darkness for 15 hours daily from about Oct. 1 to about Dec. 10.
  • Begin stocking up gardening supplies before they are removed for the season from retailers’ shelves. Pots, potting mixes, fertilizers and other products may be harder to find later in the season.

General landscape

  • 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 fall and fall-prepared beds allow for earlier plantings in spring. 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

  • Dig onions and garlic after tops fall over and necks begin to dry.
  • Plant radishes, sets for green onions, lettuce and spinach for fall harvest.
  • Thin fall crops, such as lettuce and carrots, that were planted earlier.
  • Harvest tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons and sweet potatoes before frost; cover plants with blankets, newspapers (no plastic) to protect from light frost.
  • Harvest winter squash when mature (skin is tough) with deep, solid color, but before hard frost.
  • Harvest apples, pears, grapes, ever-bearing strawberries and raspberries.
  • Remove raspberry canes after they bear fruit.
  • Keep area around apple (including crabapple) and other fruit trees clean of fallen fruit, twigs and leaves to reduce insects and disease carryover.

Prepare to move houseplants back indoors

(C) Tanouchka/AdobeStock

(C) Tanouchka/AdobeStock

Pretty soon, it will be time for our houseplants to leave their outdoor summer setting to return indoors.

It’s best to bring houseplants indoors in early September, before evening temperatures stay in the 50s, and definitely before we have a frost or freeze.

You want to make sure that what you bring indoors are the plants and not unwanted hitchhikers. Before moving plants indoors, give them a good shower. Use the showerhead nozzle on the hose and be sure to spray the undersides and tops of leaves. Pay special attention to where the leaves attach to the stem to make sure no tiny insects are hiding in any crevices. Give the soil a good soaking, too.

Keep the plants you are moving indoors separated for a week or so from those that stayed inside, if you are worried about possible insect or disease contamination.

Keeping up

Continue to pick tomatoes, peppers, squash and other vegetables as they ripen. Harvesting keeps production strong for the next several week. Preserve what you have too much of, or share it with family, friends, neighbors, soup kitchen or food pantry. Keep watering vegetable plants, too. As you pull out warm-season crops, replace them with lettuce, spinach, chard and other greens.

Tidy up any summer plants in pots to keep them looking good until it’s time to change them out for a fall scheme. Make sure to keep the pots watered and plants fertilized. Pull out what has lost its usefulness.

New okra

Candle Fire okra. Photo courtesy

Candle Fire okra. Photo courtesy

I’m not an okra fan, except for the flowers, which are beautiful and reveal their ties to the hibiscus family. And the fruit is attractive, whether it’s green or red. All-America Selections recently announced Candle Fire okra is a 2017 winner. Judges deemed Candle Fire’s fruit a brighter red than other red fruited varieties on the market, and the pods are rounded without ribs. Harvest is 60 days from sowing seed or 30 days from a transplant. Look for it in spring mail order catalogs and online seed merchants.

A begonia for every situation

Dragon Wing Red begonia with yellow canna. Pink Baby Wing begonia is in the foreground. (Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Dragon Wing Red begonia with yellow canna. Pink Baby Wing begonia is in the foreground. (Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Begonias are an under appreciated plant. There are so many types, forms and sizes that there’s one for every pot of annuals or in-ground planting scheme. Some thrive, even flower, in deep shade and others burst into bloom in full sun. Leaves can be glossy, bumpy, variegated, patterned, deeply veined, one color on top and another color on the bottom, smooth and fuzzy.

There’s even one that’s winter hardy in our area. Begonia grandis has pink or white flowers in August, but like most begonias, the real beauty is in the leaves—green with red veins on top and greenish-purple on the bottom.

Santa Cruz begonia. PHoto courtesy National Garden Bureau

Santa Cruz begonia. PHoto courtesy National Garden Bureau

Most of the begonias we grow though are tropical, and there are a bunch of them. Some of the new hybrids, such as Dragon Wing, Baby Wing, Big, Bada Bing and Bada Boom, are extremely showy with large flowers. These plants tend to be more upright with strong stems. Some have large, glossy, bright green leaves and some have smaller, dark green foliage. These hybrids have leaves that are green or bronze with flowers that are red, pink or white. They do well in full sun to part shade.

The Begonia boliviensis species also can take the sun and tolerates shade. It has a more relaxed, cascading habit and trumpet- or star-like flowers. Santa Cruz Sunset and Bonfire are two popular varieties in this group.

Probably the most common are the wax-leaf or bedding begonias, with the Cocktail series the most readily available.

Amstel Rieger begonia. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Amstel Rieger begonia. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

One of my favorites is the Rieger begonia (B. x hiemalis), which has tight, rosette-like flowers in pastels and red. This begonia is very shade tolerant and if deadheaded, retains a clean look throughout the summer. Rieger begonias are also popular houseplants.

Another popular houseplant is the Rex begonia. Over the last few years, these exotic hybrids have escaped their indoor environment to add beauty, texture, unusual blooms and forms in shady outdoor settings. This is the group of plants that has such incredible foliage that flowers are an extra. ‘Escargot’ describes the swirly pattern in the leaves of one Rex begonia.

Escargot Rex begonia. Photo courtesy Annie's Annuals

Escargot Rex begonia. Photo courtesy Annie’s Annuals

My least favorite is tuberous begonia (B. x tuberhybrida), a truly beautiful plant, but one that I find too challenging because the stems are brittle and subject to rotting off.

Tuberous begonias. Photo courtesy Annie's Annuals

Non-stop tuberous begonias. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

The popularity of begonias is on the upswing because they are so versatile, something the National Garden Bureau, a trade association of plant breeders, decided to acknowledge in 2016 as the Year of Begonia.

Sit back and enjoy the evening garden with a cocktail

fornarii Cocktail Hour Garden Cover copyThe dog days of summer are upon us and what better way to enjoy this little bit of leisure time than with a cocktail in the garden.

First up, set the stage for the evening, said former Hoosier C.L. Fornari, in her book The Cocktail Hour Garden (2016, St. Lynn’s Press, $19.95, hardcover). Is the landscape past it prime? Have the plants seen better days? Remember that plants are like people, in that they have lifespans, and some age better than others. When shrubs, trees or perennials stop earning their keep because they bring you more worry than joy, yank them out and replace them with something else. Ask yourself: What do the plants bring to the party?

“I want readers to see their yards and gardens from a new, celebratory perspective. My focus here is on creating landscapes for evening relaxation, renewal and entertaining, so the party metaphor is fitting,” wrote Fornari, who gardens at Poison Ivy Acres on Cape Cod.

When sitting outdoors in the evening, think about fragrance and brightness. White and silver are the colors of the hour because they glow as nighttime falls. Dusty miller (Seneceo cineraria) , lamb’s ear (Stachys bizantina), and licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) are a few fuzzy, silver-leaf selections. Four o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) and moonflower (Datura spp.) perfume the air.

In the late afternoon and early evening sun, hummingbird moths and hummingbirds will join you, visiting flowers to imbibe on nectar. Set them up with hummingbird mint (Agastache spp.), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), sage (Salvia spp.), and bee balm (Monarda spp.) and they’ll come calling.

Here’s a Fornari recipe to sip while watching the birds and enjoying the cocktail hour.

Basil Margarita (for each drink)

5 or 6 large basil leaves

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce agave nectar

2 ounces blue agave tequila

Lime and basil for garnish

Salt for rim (optional)

Rub the rim of the glass with a lime wedge first and press the salt against the edge. Muddle basil a bit in a Mason jar or cocktail shaker, add lime juice and agave nectar, and muddle again. Add tequila and ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into the glass and garnish with the basil and lime.

Plants on display at fairgrounds

When at the state fair, visit the Purdue Extension Marion County Demonstration Garden to see hundreds of All-America Selections plants and how they would look in your landscape. The garden is near the DNR building on the northside of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Photo courtesy Steve Mayer/Extension Educator

When at the state fair, visit the Purdue Extension Marion County Demonstration Garden to see hundreds of All-America Selections plants and how they would look in your landscape. The garden is near the DNR building on the northside of the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Photo courtesy Steve Mayer/Extension Educator

Nestled next to DNR on the northside of the Indiana State Fairgrounds you’ll find the Purdue Extension Marion County Demonstration Garden. Hundreds of All-America Selections annuals perennials, vegetables, and herbs are on display. Visitors also can check out tomato caging techniques, raised bed options, and environmentally sensitive ways control insect and disease.

Eye-catching new plants to try

Heartbeat petunia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Surfinia Heartbeat petunia from Suntory. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A few weeks ago, I made my annual trek to Cultivate, the country’s largest horticulture trade show in Columbus, Ohio. It’s where about 10,000 people go to see new plants, pots, tools, greenhouses, planting machines and more, at 1,000 booths in the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The trade show is truly overwhelming, so it helps to have a plan. Mine is always to visit with the folks who send me items to trial. Then, I’m on the lookout for cool plants, something different or much improved on what’s available. Some years there are real stunners.

Surfinia ‘Heartbeat’, a trailing petunia from Suntory, was displayed everywhere, on banners, in pots and in faux garden settings. It’s easy to see why, because it is cute and interesting – pink hearts form where the petals fuse together.

Blue Frills Stokes aster from Blooms of Bressingham. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Blue Frills Stokes aster from Blooms of Bressingham. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This annual, with a slightly mounded habit, gets about 12 inches tall, with a 12-18 inch spread. It’s perfect for hanging baskets, window boxes and other containers in sunny locations. With flowers about 1 1/2-inches wide, plant ‘Heartbeat’ where you can appreciate its novel look.

Among the perennials, I really liked ‘Blue Frills’ Stokes’ aster, a cultivar of the eastern U.S. native plant (Stokesia laevis). ‘Blue Frills’, introduced by Blooms of Bressingham, has 2 ½-3 inch wide, blue-violet flowers with dark centers. The plant will get 18-24 inches tall and blooms for most of the summer into fall. Stokes aster prefers full sun and slightly more wet than dry soil.

Balsamic Bloom basil from the HGTV Home Plant Collection. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Balsamic Bloom basil from the HGTV Home Plant Collection. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

In the edible landscape category, two plants caught my eye. Balsamic Blooms basil (Ocimum x ‘Dbasbloom’) will be a 2017 offering in the HGTV Home Plant collection. Usually we don’t want herbs to bloom because it can diminish the taste, but this basil was bred to bloom, yet retain its flavor. Just like other basils, Balsamic Blooms’ 3-inch wide flower is edible, too. The plant will get 12-18 inches tall.

Heavy Metal Chinese cabbage from Hort Couture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Heavy Metal Chinese cabbage from Hort Couture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Hort Couture Plant’s Edibliss Heavy Metal Chinese cabbage has beautiful, puckered, glossy dark purple, oval leaves with a touch of green at the center. In cooler temperatures, the foliage, streaked with bright white midribs, takes on a reddish hue.

Look for these plants next year in garden centers or look for seeds in online or mail-order retailers. Try something new.

Good tools make gardening easier

Dramm's brass hose swivel reduces kinked and twisted hoses when watering the garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Dramm’s brass hose swivel reduces kinked and twisted hoses when watering the garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

When I worked fulltime at a garden center, one of my jobs was watering the plants. It was kind of a mindless, peaceful, relaxing job, cursed by hauling heavy hoses that kinked and got twisted. Of course, kinked, twisted hoses are not just a workplace problem. They are the same at home, and I’ve always said I’d pay good money for a hose that does not kink or twist.

Last summer, at the suggestion of several garden writer colleagues, I purchased two, pricey, 75-foot Flexzilla garden hoses, touted for their light weight and resistance to kinking and twisting. The hoses also were rated safe for drinking water. Most hoses are not approved for drinking water because they are made with lead and other toxins. The Flexzillas passed the lightweight test, but they failed the no-twist, no-kink test.

Last fall, Dramm gave garden writers a Brass Hose Swivel, which goes between the hose and an attachment, such as Dramm’s One Touch RainWand, one of my favorite watering tools. This 2-inch piece of solid brass does exactly what it promises – keeps a hose from twisting, which pretty much eliminates kinks. This swivel is a must-have for anyone who does a lot of watering, including garden centers. A lightweight hose that doesn’t twist puts the pleasure back into watering.

Corona 6-inch oscillating hoe. Photo courtesy Corona Tools USA

Corona 6-inch oscillating hoe. Photo courtesy Corona Tools USA

This year, the weeds have been particularly prolific. My favorite tool for weeding is Corona’s 60-inch oscillating hoe, sometimes called a stirrup or scuffle hoe. A 6-inch blade slices off weeds at or just below the soil line with a push and pull. You can’t really go wrong with any tool from Corona, including another favorite, its 7-inch Razor Tooth Pruning Saw. This folding saw makes fast work of pruning thicker branches.

You can’t go wrong with tools from Fiskars, either. I especially like Fiskars’ Pruning Stik. At 5-foot long, this is the best tool for reaching up into trees or down into shrubs to remove branches up to 1 ¼ inch diameter. It is rope-free, so you can control the pruner with two hands. A chain-driven gear enables cuts to be clean and precise.

Fiskars Pruning Stik. Photo courtesy Fiskars

Fiskars Pruning Stik. Photo courtesy Fiskars

This is the second Pruning Stik I’ve had. The first one broke after about 10 years. I called Fiskars customer service and, in accordance with a lifetime warranty, the company shipped me a new one. You can’t beat that.