Redbud seedlings. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The adage that a weed is just a plant out of place certainly holds true in my yard, when plants show up where I don’t want them. Here are some common examples:
The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a fast-growing, native, ornamental tree with pink flowers in spring and pale yellow, heart-shaped leaves in fall. A prolific seeder, seedlings show up everywhere and anywhere. They are hard to pull and dig out. Best time for the job is early spring when the soil is moist.
Virginia creeper. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve slipped a plastic bag on my arm to pull Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), thinking it was a young poison ivy plant. This native climbing and trailing vine starts out with three leaves and within a few feet, takes on the more familiar Virginia creeper, five-leaf form. The leaves turn a beautiful deep red in fall. It blooms in summer, followed by fruit, but I’ve never noticed either. This is good for camouflaging fences or climbing a trellis, but not creeping through the garden bed. Pull anytime and keep pulling where it’s not wanted.
Hackberry seedling. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) has rough leaves arranged alternately along the branch. Seedlings of this native plant are easy to spot because of their arched form. Cut back to the ground or dig out.
Mulberry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
White mulberry (Morus alba) seems to have a fast-growing stranglehold on my neighbor’s side of the fence, no matter how much I whack it back. Unlike the native red mulberry (Morus rubra), the Asian introduction can readily be found in urban areas. It is likely spread by birds that eat the fruit, which despite its white mulberry moniker, is red.
Tree of heaven. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Tree of heaven
When I was a kid, we called this a stink tree and today, it sometimes is called a ghetto palm. However, tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) seems to be its most common nickname. Tolerant of sun or shade, this fast-growing tree from China is very tough, a prolific seeder and hard to get rid of. Keeping it chopped back will eventually starve it out. If small, dig it out. If large, you’ll probably have to hire an arborist to take it down.
- Brown marmorated stink bugs has bit appetites for apples, cayenne pappers, bean, tomatoes and more. Photo courtesy John Obermeyer/Purdue University
For the past month, I’ve been consumed with brown marmorated stink bugs. I’ve repurposed newspapers into swatting machines, killing more than 100 on the outside of my house and 10 inside on my screened-in porch.
I’m pretty observant in my garden and I did not notice any of these Asian invaders last year. So, in my world, it’s gone from zero to hundreds of mini-shielded, cilantro-stinking bugs in a year.
After online research and interviewing experts about the brown marmorated stink bug, called BMSB for short, I know the worst is yet to come. Our homes will be inundated by these bugs, and so will our tomatoes, green beans, corn, apples and just about everything else in the garden. In the next 10 years, we could be talking billions. (I wrote about this insect in The Indianapolis Star, Oct. 8.)
The BMSB (Halyomorpha halys) is not harmful to people or pets, but it emits an unpleasant, cilantro-like smell when disturbed. And, although a nuisance because the bugs want to winter in our homes, it’s a much more serious pest for gardeners and farmers. The brown marmorated stink bug nymphs and adults are equally damaging to crops, said John Obermeyer, a Purdue University entomologist.
Nymph of brown marmorated stink bug. Photo courtesy John Obermeyer/Purdue University
We can caulk our windows and doors and make sure to plug any cracks or crevices where you can see daylight in our homes. In the garden, though, protection is more challenging. Scientists are frantically trying to find a way to control this destructive pest, but right now there are no natural enemies.
Trap crops, row covers and lure traps help, but there’s still a lot that’s not known. Lure traps (Rescue is one brand), armed with pheromones, are quite effective at capturing nymphs and adults within a 30-foot range. They are usually left up from spring through fall to trap as many of the insects as possible.
If you see BMSBs, your county extension office wants to hear from you.
Indiana map where BMSB have been found
U.S. map where BMSB have been found
News and updates about BMSB
All about BMSB from the Entomological Society of America/Rutgers University
Tips for controlling brown marmorated stink bugs
A white pumpkin, assorted gourds and Spanish moss with faux leaves and berries in a container on a sheltered porch. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
As we perform our fall cleanup chores, save a few items for use in late season and winter containers.
Right now, you can use seed heads of perennials, snippets of ornamental grass, twigs, a pumpkin or a few gourds and maybe a mum or pansy for a pot of fall beauty.
Spray paint the twigs to match the trim on the house. Pumpkins, too, come in other colors besides orange, including white, yellow-green and green. And the gourds, with their gnarly or warted skins are just plain fun.
You can always supplement with artificial fall leaves or stems of faux berries for a little more pizzazz.
Stow some of nature’s fall bounty for use in a winter container, too. Dried hydrangea flowers, ornamental grass flowers or foliage, red or yellow-stem dogwood, birch branches and willow stems are all good choices. For a winter arrangement, fill in as needed with evergreen boughs and other greenery from a garden center or perhaps a friend’s landscape.
Fall-planted lilies shine in the summer garden
We all know about planting tulips and daffodils in fall for spring blooms. But there are lovely summer-blooming bulbs to plant in fall, too.
Asiatic, oriental and orienpet lilies (Lilium) are always worth a little space in the perennial garden.
Asiatics bloom in early summer and come in many colors. These are usually 10 to 24 inches tall and have trumpet-shaped flowers. Oriental and a new group called orienpet lilies are worth having if only because of their fragrance. These also can get pretty tall, up to 5 or 6 feet, depending on the variety. Really tall ones may need to be staked, or plant them amid companion plants that will help support the lilies.
Foxtail lily (Eremurus 'Stenophyllis'). Photo courtesy longfield-gardens.com
Most of these lilies are winter hardy throughout Indiana. Plant lilies where they get morning sun or where they get filtered afternoon sun. Most do well in average soil, but prefer it to be well drained.
A lot of gardeners are unfamiliar with the foxtail lily (Eremurus), which blooms in very late spring to early summer. These have 30-inch stalks topped with pink, white, cream or yellow flowers. Hardy to USDA Zone 5, plant these in full sun and well-drained soil.
Lilies and foxtail lilies also are terrific cut flowers for indoor enjoyment.
- Red Giant mustard accents snapdragons in the late season garden. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau
You Can Grow That! in September talked about late-blooming perennials. This month, here’s a sampler of late-blooming, easy-t0-grow annuals, some of which you may already have in your garden. If not, many of these may be available at garden centers.
Snapdragons love the cooler temperatures of fall and have been known to keep blooming into December. Snaps (Antirrhinum majus) come in all sizes and colors and do best in full sun, but tolerate part sun. Even this time of year, you can sow seeds directly in soil in window boxes, pots or a patch in the landscape, according to packet instructions. Garden centers also may have snapdragons in pots this time of year. Snapdragons are great cut flowers, too.
Petunias (Petunia) and million bells (Calibrachoa) may already be growing in your landscape or pots. Cut them back a bit, give them a dose of fertilizer, keep them watered and they will keep blooming for several more weeks. These are quite tolerant of cooler temperatures and can take a frost or two.
Cape daisy (Osteospermum) also should revive as temperatures cool. These plants are stunning in spring and fall, but seem to lose their zip in summer when the temeratures get hot, especially at night. Indiana’s hot weather prevents the plants from resting at night, which diminishes their blooms.
Verbena hybrids seem to be revived by cooler temps, too. These sun-loving and heat tolerant plants will continue blooming for several more weeks.
At garden centers, also look for pots of Swiss chard, mustards and kale for interesting foliage and color. Many of these work well as the centerpiece or thriller in a late-season container for outdoors. If we plan far enough ahead next year, we can grow our own from seed. Look for the seeds in spring and sow them in early August, according to packet instructions.
Hosta shoots, wrapped with proscuitto and placed on a bed of garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata) pesto. © Ellen Zachos
I’m the first to admit that I’m not a particularly adventurous eater, but after reading Ellen Zachos’ new book Backyard Foraging, I might have to give hostas a try.
“Unlike you, I’m a very adventurous eater,” said Zachos, in a phone interview. She lives in New York City and Pennsylvania, but grew up in New Hampshire in a Greek family that traveled widely and devoured local fare. “I’ve always been interested in different foods.”
Author Ellen Zachos holds a bowl filled with foraged food (moving clockwise): wintergreen leaves, hopniss tubers, black walnuts, silverberries (sweet autumn olives) and canna tubers. © Rob Cardillo
She started foraging in Central Park and other semi-wild and wild places throughout the United States for new foods to try. Her book, Backyard Foraging 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (paperback, $16.95), published earlier this year by Storey Publishing, is in its second printing. It also features many recipes. (See below for some recipes.)
Foraging all started with a cheese sandwich. One day, a food-foraging friend suggested Zachos stuff garlic mustard in the sandwich she was having for lunch. In one simple gesture, the cheese sandwich was made delicious, she said.
Throughout her book and in person, Zachos repeatedly cautions “no experimenting. If you are not 100 percent sure of what it is, do not put it in your mouth.”
Deep-fried milkweed pods (Asclepias syriaca). What looks like the creamy filling is actually the melted silks inside the milkweed pods. © Ellen Zachos
Even when eating known food you’ve foraged for the first time, Zachos recommends “starting with small quantities. You could have a food allergy to what you’ve foraged just like you might for a strawberry.” Always make sure the forage has not been tainted with any pesticide, too.
Zachos nourishes her appetite for foraged food by reading anything and everything on the topic. “But it’s much more fun to learn from the experts.”
Among the surprises on the foraging menu are hostas, especially the newly emerged leaves of spring, she said.
She thinks foraging is fueled in part by the local, seasonal food movement. “It leads naturally to foraging. You harvest it when it’s just right, perfect and ready to eat, not picked weeks in advance and shipped across country.”
Spicebush berries start out green and turn bright red as they ripen. They can be eaten whole, or grind them for use in cookies, scones and other baked goods. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Zachos said she not interested in survival food. “I like these things because they are delicious, have a fantastic taste and they taste unusual. You can’t walk into a grocery store and buy spicebush berries, which is one delicious berry. You have to find the female (shrub) out in woods.” Follow Zachos’ adventures in foraging at Down and Dirty Gardening.
While working on this article, I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where you can find just about any plant, including spicebush (Lindera benzoin). So, I tried the spicebush berries and they were pretty good. They had a citrusy, tart, tingly taste. I would eat them again and I think they would give a bright, tangy taste to cookies, scones or biscotti and perk up a salad.
Mugwort soup. (C) Ellen Zachos
1 medium onion, chopped
Olive oil for sautéing
4 cups vegetable broth
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 cups tender, young mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) leaves, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- Sauté onion in olive oil until softened.
- Add vegetable broth, potato pieces, and 2 cups chopped mugwort leaves.
- Bring to a boil, and simmer until the potato is soft.
- Add 2 more cups of chopped mugwort leaves and the almond milk, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, and let cool, then process until smooth with a food processor or an immersion blender.
The taste is earthy, herbal and green. And if you’re not sure what that means, then why not pick yourself some mugwort and find out.
Spicebush snickerdoodles. (C) Ellen Zachos
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground spicebush berries (Lindera benzoin)
1. Combine sugar, butter, vanilla and egg and mix well.
2. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
3. Blend well and roll the dough into a ball.
4. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
5. Use a small melon baller or other tool to scoop out spheres of dough.
6. Roll the balls the mixture of sugar and ground spicebush berries (Lindera benzoin).
7. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes.
What: Hendricks County Master Gardeners Presents Adventures in Gardening: How to Feed a Planet
Where: Hendricks County Fairgrounds Auditorium, Danville, Ind.
When: 8 a.m. registration, Saturday, September 28, 2013. Programs 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Registration fee: $45, includes breakfast, lunch and materials. Call Emily (317) 745-9260 to reserve a spot.
About: How do you feed a world of hungry people while maintaining a healthy natural environment? This year’s Hendricks County Master Gardeners daylong seminar focuses on the complex issues of food production.
The basics of growing food to feed a planet are far from basic. Whether industrial, natural, organic or genetically modified, our food comes from many sources near and far, simple and complex.
Speakers will discuss a piece of this complex puzzle of food production. The day ends with a panel discussion of speakers discussing common issues and concerns around food production. Conflicts and controversies, and how various methods of food production can be balanced to feed the world while maintaining a healthy planet will be discussed.
Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center, will speak on emerging food systems in Indiana.
Cris G. Hochwender, assistant professor of environmental science and evolutionary ecology, will speak on restoration of native seeds and plant diversity.
David Wyeth, District 5 director of Indiana Farm Bureau, is a fourth-generation farmer whose family has owned land in Hendricks County since 1919.
Sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora). (C) Morguefile.com
One of the best flowering plants of late summer and fall has shown up on the radar of the state’s invasive plants group.
Sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora, sometimes listed as C. paniculata) lives up to its name with its sweet, fragrant white blooms in August and September.
If you’ve grown this hardy, perennial vine from Asia, you know how invasive it can be in the backyard. It self sows like mad. Seedlings seem to sprout about anywhere they land, even great distances from the original plant. It’s one of those that you only need to plant once because it will have dozens of offspring.
Sweet autumn clematis blooms the same time as the native virgin’s bower (C. virginiana) and the two are hard to distinguish. Each blankets neighboring plants and fences with its star-like flowers. They both grow well in sun and shade and are not fussy about soil or water requirements.
“This is a good time to double check to make sure it’s really the native virgin’s bower, and not the invasive sweet autumn clematis,” said Ellen Jacquart, a director of stewardship at the Nature Conservancy and a member of the state’s group that evaluates invasive plants.
The native, fall-blooming clematis leaf (C. virginiana) has uneven, or toothed edges. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS Wetland Science Institute
“The flowers look pretty much the same, so you have to look at the leaves to tell which is which,” she said. The native species has teeth or jagged edges on the leaves, and the Asian variety has smooth-edged leaves.
Already on the list of invasive species in many other states, Clematis terniflora is not detected frequently in Indiana except in the Indianapolis area, where it has shown up in several natural sites, Jacquart said.
The plant has escaped our yards and shown up in natural areas, such as parks and woodlands, she said. “It may be that there are more sites, but people are assuming by the flowers that it is the native clematis.”
Because it heavily self sows, the Asian type can quickly overwhelm and displace native species.
Invasive clematis leaf (C. terniflora) has smooth edges. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
What can you do? Remove the invasive species and replace it with the native one. The latter will be a bit harder to find, but there are online retailers and some garden centers that will have it. Search for it by the species name.
Iron butterfly ironweed. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
We see ironweed growing along country roads, where its beautiful bluish-purple flowers compliment perfectly the yellow blossoms of goldenrods this time of year.
A few years ago, Allan Armitage, the perennial plant-breeding guru who retired recently from the University of Georgia, introduced ‘Iron Butterfly’, a garden-worthy cousin of the late-season, roadside bloomer.
This is the first year that ‘Iron Butterfly’ ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii) has bloomed here, probably because until last spring, it was shrouded by a much larger false sunflower, ‘Sunshine Daydream’ (Helianthus x multiflorus), which didn’t know how to contain itself.
‘Iron Butterfly’ calls to its winged namesakes as they sustain themselves late in the season and as they migrate from here to their winter home.
This cultivar of a native species has finely textured foliage along stems topped with tufts of purple-blue flowers. ‘Iron Butterfly’ gets about 3 feet tall and wide.
Grow ironweed in full sun and average soil. It is quite drought tolerant, yet can withstand an occasional surface flooding, but sopping wet, poorly drained soil would not be good. Cut a few of the blooms for indoor enjoyment. It is winter hardy throughout Indiana.
American Garden Award Winners
Verbena Lanai Candy Cane. Photo courtesy americangardenaward.com
Verbena Lanai Candy Cane received the most votes from the public in the 2013 American Garden Award. This was the favorite plant of Master Gardener volunteer Thomas Graham, who tends the American Garden Award planting outside the Garfield Park Arts Center. Second place went to Zahara Cherry Zinnia and third (my favorite) was SunPatiens Compact Electric Orange Impatiens.
Rain has been sparse since July and more than likely, the landscape is dry.
We can allow the perennials and annuals to go the way of the season. But it would be wise to water evergreens, trees and shrubs throughout fall until the ground freezes. These plants should be well hydrated as the season changes and temperatures drop.
Many larger plants are already stressed from last year’s brutal drought and excessively hot temperatures. The rains this spring and early summer pushed fast new growth, which drains a plant’s reserves. Newly planted trees and shrubs also are at risk. Most plants need at least 1 inch of water a week. An inch is roughly 15 gallons of water.
The 2013 potato production was much greater in Smart Pots. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
I tried some new pots to grow potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) this year and the results have been astounding. I switched from Gardman plastic potato tubs to 15-gallon Smart Pots, and boy, was that ever smart.
Last year, I got a handful of fingerlings from the Gardman tubs. This year, I got many more, using the same brand of organic seed potatoes I’ve used before.
About 10 ounces of potatoes were harvested in two Gardman Potato Tubs in 2012. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The real surprise was the 3-½ pounds of Adirondack Blue potatoes. These are purple through and through and, despite their name, have their origin in South America and are considered an heirloom. I’ve already eaten one and yum is a good description.
“Smart Pots are made of polypropylene, specially for us to our specs. It is BPA free and lead free,” said Charles Jackson, vice president of High Caliper Growing Inc., the Oklahoma City company that makes the pots. The cloth is specially designed to control moisture and heat.
I credit my garden-writer colleague C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening for telling me about Smart Pots after seeing my pitiful potato post from last year.
Smart Pots also come in black. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Besides changing the pots, I read more about growing potatoes. As a result, the plants received:
• Mid-day shade. This keeps the leaves from getting sunburned and the plants a bit cooler.
• Regular applications of Espoma Holly-Tone, a natural, acidic fertilizer. Potatoes prefer it more acidic than the alkaline soil Indiana has to offer.
• Water as needed.
Even without pesticides, I had very, very little leaf damage from potato beetles or other critters. The potatoes are firm and unblemished.
I’m done with the fingerlings, but next year, I’ll plant Adirondack Blue and Yukon Gold potatoes in my two pots. Visit smartpots.com to find area retailers that carry them.
If you saw last week’s column about Quebec City, you noticed that Smart Pots are planted with vegetables, edible flowers, herbs and fruit trees throughout the main entryway at the province’s Parliament Building.
Long-term users have said the pots last three to five years or more and that perennial plants, trees and shrubs can be left outdoors in the Smart Pots, even in winter.
These pots would be a boon for urban gardeners with little or no yard, heavily rooted or compacted soil and too little sun because of big trees.
Dozens of varieties of food crops, including vegetables, fruits and herbs, grow in Smart Pots in the main entryway to Quebec's Parliament Building. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
'Raydon's Favorite' aster. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The Midwesterners’ choices for late blooming perennials have taken a giant step past everyday chrysanthemums in the last several years.
Ready for the late season spotlight are some, newer yet under used, perennials that delight gardeners in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and beyond. These are the plants that need the heat of summer to build up their resources to color the landscape well into fall
Here’s a sampler:
‘Raydon’s Favorite’ aster kicks into gear in September and keeps going until October in the upper Midwest or November in the lower Midwest. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 through 8, ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ is a cultivar of the North American native aromatic aster with a newer tongue twister, scientific name Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. It formerly was Aster oblongifolium and may be listed that way on plant tags, in catalogs and other references.
This deer resistant plant can be grown in full- to part sun in average soil. It gets about 2 feet tall with a slightly relaxed habit, has an 12- to 18-inch spread and is drought tolerant. The flowers can be cut for indoor enjoyment. This cultivar is not affected by powdery mildew, a common pest on this species. Introduced in 2000, ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ is readily available at garden centers or through mail order and online retailers. A good alternative is ‘October Skies.’
Consider pairing asters with plants that also have good fall color, such as ornamental grasses, stonecrop (Sedum), Amsonia or shrubs with late blooming flowers like peegee hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) or spectacular foliage like ninebark (Physocarpus) and oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia).
Bugbane, cohosh or snake root is a multi-named native species that also has undergone a scientific name change. Formerly Cimicifuga, it now is Actaea. Regardless, this perennial looks good in its native species form or as one of the purple-leafed cultivars.
Hillside Black Beauty bugbane. Photo courtesy of perennialresource.com
‘Black Negligee’, ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’ all get in the 4- to 7-foot tall range with a spread of about half that. They do well in shadier, moist areas of the garden. The long, fragrant white or pinkish-white flowers begin to bloom in August and continue for about six weeks. Place in the back or the middle of the flower bed where shorter plants can enhance the base of the tall bugbanes. It is hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 8. Bugbane is deer resistant and is readily available through mail order and online catalogs. Some garden centers also may carry the plant.
‘Frosty Igloo’ isn’t your average mum. This mum bloomed in Indianapolis from July through November in its first year in trials. Granted, it was a cooler than normal summer; however, the white flowers stayed crisp and clean and the foliage fresh and green the whole time.
Frosty Igloo mum. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Marketed as a hardy mum, the Igloo series was introduced as a Dendranthema, but recently changed its scientific name to Chrysanthemum. Reliably hard to -20 degrees F, the plants get about 12 inches tall and slightly wider. Plant in full sun for the best flowering.
Most gardeners have grown a lot of mums and know that they don’t always come back. This one is very different and quite a performer with a nice rounded shape that is covered with flowers that come in five colors. Introduced by Blooms of Bressingham, it can be difficult to find. It comes in other colors, too, including pink and orange tones.