October 2010

HortusScope November 2010

Here’s a calendar of garden and nature related activities in Indiana, prepared and published every month as a public service by Wendy Ford.

HortusScope November 2010

Native plants, wildlife key to ecosystem gardening

November 6, 2010
American goldfinches feed on the seeds of coneflowers throughout the year in Indiana.

American goldfinches feed on the seeds of coneflowers throughout the year in Indiana. (C)

Build it and they will come, says landscape designer Carole Brown.

But she’s not talking baseball. She’s talking bugs, birds and other wildlife.

“When we choose to do something to help wildlife, the impact can be almost immediate,” said Brown of Philadelphia, who has been designing, installing and maintaining wildlife gardens for 20 years.

Brown is one of the keynote speakers at the Indiana Native Plant and Wildlife Society’s annual conference Nov. 6 at the University of Indianapolis. This year’s theme: Conserving Biodiversity with Native Plants.

When we hear about saving whales, rainforests and polar bears, we frequently feel inadequate to make a real difference, she said.

Gardeners who incorporate native plants in the landscape are at the forefront of making a difference, she said. “It’s not as overwhelming as trying to save something as huge as the rainforest. It has immediate, positive results, and we are contributing. That’s a good feeling.”

The lack of plant diversity — a landscape of yews and lawn, for instance — contributes to the decline of native wildlife. “With our zeal for constant development, we have simply left no place for wildlife to go,” Brown said in an interview. Her book, Ecosystem Gardening is due to be released later this fall.

Simply stated, the more native plants we have in our gardens, the more wildlife we will have. “So, to that end, one native plant is good. Three of that same plant is better,” she said.

For Brown, every plant selected for landscapes is planted with the needs of wildlife as a top priority. “I am fully aware that many gardeners are not yet ready to make that commitment, but I’ve been saying for years, that if everyone of us did just one positive thing for wildlife in our gardens, the cumulative effect would be enormous.”

Ros Creasy, edible landscape expert, to speak at IMA during the 2010 Spirit & Place festival

November 7, 2010
2:30 PMto4:00 PM
In spring, plant lettuce amid tulips. (C) Rosalind Creasy

In spring, plant lettuce amid tulips. Harvest the outer leaves of the lettuce and you won't have any holes in the planting. (C) Rosalind Creasy

Rosalind Creasy, well-known advocate of edible landscaping, will be one of the keynote speakers during this year’s Spirit & Place.

With the 10-day festival’s theme, Food for Thought, Creasy will talk about her mission: planting edible gardens in beautiful ways.

Creasy pioneered the concept with her award-winning, 1982 edition of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, which the Wall Street Journal named the best garden book of the year.

In November, Sierra Club Books will release an updated and completely rewritten Edible Landscaping, which was 10 years in the making, said Creasy, during a telephone interview from her northern California home.

In her first book, there’s nothing about heirloom vegetables, such as ‘Brandywine’ tomato, a staple of many home gardens today. That’s because heirloom vegetable seeds and transplants were not readily available to most home gardeners, said Creasy.

And, she said, there have been many, tremendous advances in pest and insect controls for organic gardeners, which are covered in the book.

As with most of her 18 books, she draws on her experience as a designer of edible landscapes throughout the United States when describing how vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs perform regionally.

“Luscious ‘Brandywine’ has become the poster child for heirloom tomatoes,” she wrote in the book. “When grown in warm, humid climates, it produces the ultimate tomato experience: meaty, juicy and out-of-this-world flavor. In cooler climates, it’s not nearly so flavorful or productive.”

Loaded with Creasy’s inspirational photos, Edible Landscaping contains: an effort scale for each plant (1, minimal to 5, considerable); hardiness zones; how to purchase and grow the plant; and how to use it in the kitchen. It should serve as a tremendous guide for new and experienced gardeners.

Creasy will speak at 2:30 p.m., Nov. 7 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Tickets are required. Cost: $5 for the public; $3 IMA members.

Orchid Show at Garfield Park

November 6, 2010 10:00 AMtoNovember 14, 2010 5:00 PM
<p>Angraec epiphyte orchid. (C) Fritz Nerding</p>

Angraec epiphyte orchid. (C) Fritz Nerding

The Garfield Park Conservatory will have hundreds of blooming orchids on display for the public to enjoy Nov. 6 through Nov. 14.

Don’t miss your chance to see these brilliant colors and unique blooms against the backdrop of the conservatory’s permanent tropical display. There will also be plants and growing supplies for sale for those.  The Central Indiana Orchid Society will have experts on hand to answer questions and provide growing tips and information.

What:  Orchid Fest

When:  November 6 through 14; Mon. through Sat.: 10 a.m to 5 p.m.; Sun.: 1-5 p.m.

Where:  Garfield Park Conservatory, 2505 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis

Admission:  $2 for adults, $1 for seniors and youth, and $5 for families.

For information, call (317) 327-7580 or visit:

Fall-planted mums need TLC to make it through winter

'Matchsticks' mum. Photo courtesy

'Matchsticks' mum. Photo courtesy

Mum season is upon us, and every year, gardeners want to know how to help these perennials survive winter, or when to divide them.

Even though it’s contrary to what the market tells us, the best time to divide and plant Chrysanthemum and its cousin Dendranthemum is spring.

The problem is that mums are hard to find in spring. That’s because the mums are sold as what’s called ‘green’ in the trade — small, leafy plants that don’t really put on their show until late summer and early fall. However, if you can find mums in spring, buy and plant them.

Mums are a fall commodity, burgeoning from garden centers, nurseries and roadside stands. These mums have been hybridized and grown all summer to bloom now. To help them survive the winter:

  • Plant them in the ground in a sunny spot as soon as possible. Keep them evenly moist.
  • Do not cut them back in winter. The dead stems help insulate the base of the plant and its roots. Wait until you see new leaves forming at the base of the plant in spring.
  • As the mums grow next year, prune them back by one-half until July 4. This reins in the height, improves the shape and increases the number of flowers.

Here are more tips.

Mum growing tips video.

Indiana in Bloom

America in Bloom has awarded Bloomington, Ind., the top prize for 2010 for 50,000- to 100,000-population size. The city also won first place in the urban forestry category. Rising Sun, Ind., picked up the 2010 national award for tidiness, in the national beautification and civic pride competition.

Indianapolis won the top award in 2003 in its population category. Other Indiana competitors since 2001 include: Columbus, Frankfort, Greenfield, Shipshewana, Aurora, North Manchester, Michigan City, Greendale, Ligonier, Lafayette and West Lafayette.

Here’s info on how your community can compete.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day October 2010

'Raydon's Favorite' aster. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

'Raydon's Favorite' aster. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

In many ways, I’m glad this summer is over. Not that I want to wish time away, but this summer has been brutal. As it passes into fall, our hopes for a better summer next year are what nourish our souls.

But for now, the asters are in full glory. I really like ‘Raydon’s Favorite,’ because it blooms a bit later than other asters (Symphyotrichum), has incredibly clean foliage and bright blue flowers with yellow centers.

Slightly Strawberry cape mallow. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Slightly Strawberry cape mallow. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Slightly Strawberry (Anisodontea), a new plant I’m trialing from Proven Winners, has hung on even though the literature says it does not like hot, humid temperatures. The cape mallow is a native from South Africa and prefers cooler temps. Mine looks beautiful right now and I give it good marks for its performance the rest of the summer, too.

The new Cool Igloo mum from Blooms of Bressingham has been in bloom for several weeks now, pretty much all on its own. The trial plant arrived in early summer and I planted it and forgot about it. The Frosty Igloo, which I’ve had for two years, is still growing strong, but this year, it turned pinkish much earlier.

As I scouted the landscape for more blooms, I found my Cool Splash Diervilla had sprouted the lovely, orchid-like flowers of a toad lily, Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome.’ Actually, the toad lily is growing through the diervilla, each in its nursery pot awaiting planting.

<p>'Sinonome' tricyrtis and Cool Splash diervilla. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

'Sinonome' tricyrtis and Cool Splash diervilla. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

After the planting of the 40+ plants I have in pots, moving the tender stuff to the basement or garage, I have a bunch of tulips to get in the ground.

I’ve already pulled out all of the veggie plants and composted them, and accomplished a few other fall clean up tasks. I might even cut the lawn one last time this weekend.

Really, fall is almost as busy as spring.

Nature determines fall color

Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). Photo courtesy Morton Arboretum

Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). Photo courtesy Morton Arboretum

In the October 2010 issue of Angie’s List magazine, the Hoosier Gardener talks about fall color with Midwest experts, who share which trees are their favorites this time of year.

We also discuss the science of fall color and the role Mother Nature plays. You can’t believe your eyes.

Select perennials that work well with spring-blooming bulbs

<p>Queen of the Night tulips pairs beautifully with the purple-edged Matrona sedum. Photo courtesy Cornell University</p>

'Queen of the Night' tulips pair beautifully with the purple-edged leaves of 'Matrona' sedum. Photo courtesy Cornell University

A frequent complaint gardeners have about spring blooming bulbs is that their leaves stay around for weeks, marring the image of a neat and tidy landscape.

That’s because the foliage needs to go through a critical process called ripening, which replenishes the under ground bulb with the nutrients needed for next spring’s flowers.

Cornell University researchers trialed bulb and perennial combinations for four years and developed several recommendations that can guide gardeners this fall when they plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and other spring-blooming bulbs.

The best bulb-perennial pairings do more than look good together. They also support each other in the landscape, the researchers said. For instance, the color of tulips, daffodils and other bulbs can compliment the emerging leaves of nearby perennials. As these perennials grow, their leaves camouflage ripening foliage of the spring bulbs.

“The idea of pairing bulbs and perennials to achieve multiple goals is so desirable, that we felt it deserved more than an anecdotal approach,” said Prof. William B. Miller, director of the university’s Flower Bulb Research Program. “We created an objective study to document what works and what doesn’t in a typical spring garden.”

The combination trials were designed to achieve four goals:

  • Look at how early bulbs help extend the bloom season.
  • Explore how perennials might best be used to mask the dying foliage of spring bulbs.
  • Consider leaf texture as a design element.
  • Examine the various roles color plays in creating successful combinations.

Cornell’s Bulb and Perennial Combination Web site is divided by recommendations for tulips, daffodils, crocus and other categories. Images for the top 15 combos show the progression of plant growth over the season.

One of my favorites: ‘Queen of the Night,’ a purple tulip, which compliments perfectly the purple-edged, new leaves of ‘Matrona’ sedum. As the sedum grows, it over takes the old tulip foliage. This combo would work with any upright, dark-leaved sedum.

More resources:

Native spring bloomers

Virginia bluebell: Here and gone

Plant spring bulbs in containers

Bulb planting video

Bulb planting tips

Spring in minor key: minor bulbs hit high notes

Plant bulbs now for decorative lawn in spring

A Greener Welcome on Fox 59

Hoosier Gardener talks to Fox 59 about I-70 beautification

<p>Thousands of volunteers will continue the beautification of the I-70/Holt Road interchange. Photo courtesy Carole Copeland/Eli Lilly and Company</p>

Thousands of volunteers will continue the beautification of the I-70/Holt Road interchange. Photo courtesy Carole Copeland/Eli Lilly and Company

The Hoosier Gardener talks about the I-70 beautification project Oct. 6 on Fox 59’s Morning News program. We’ll discuss several native plants that will adorn the interchanges that also work well in Indiana gardens.

I-70 Greener Welcome Plant List