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Final weekend for Garfield Park’s butterfly exhibit

July 23, 2011 10:00 AMtoAugust 7, 2011 5:00 PM
<p>Monarch butterfly on sedum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Monarch butterfly on sedum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

An exhibit of native butterflies begins July 23 at Garfield Park Conservatory & Sunken Garden, Indianapolis’ oldest city park.  Among the events:

July 23-Aug. 7, Backyard Butterfly Show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m, Sunday. A display of live native butterflies and how to attract these beneficial creatures to your backyeard. Admission: $3 per person or $8 for the family.

July 25, Metamorphosis Monday, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Learn all about betterflies and their interesting life cycle and other characteristics. Make a craft and see live butterflies. Ages 3 and up. Admission: $5 per child, $3 adult. Reservation required, (317) 327-7580.

July 31, Butterfly Gardening, 2 to 3 p.m. Learn which plants work best and what features to consider when attracting these beautiful insects. Ages 18 and up. Admission: $3. Reservation required, (317) 327-7580.

The Friends of Garfield Park, Inc., has provided support for this exhibit.

For more information, (317) 327-7580.

Calcium deficiency causes blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers and eggplants

A calcium deficiency causes blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Photo courtesy Tim Coolong, University of Kentucky

A calcium deficiency causes blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Photo courtesy Tim Coolong, University of Kentucky

The rain and then the lack of it has caused many tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to develop blossom end rot. This is a condition brought on by a calcium deficiency. It is not a disease or insect problem.

These plants depend on water for calcium and when it doesen’t come on a regular basis, blossom end rot appears. Water helps the plant’s roots use the calcium in the soil.

The brown or black spot is where the fruit emerges from the blossom. Fruits already affected cannot be helped. Pull off the affected fruit and toss into the compost pile.

For developing fruit, regular watering will help. Water deeply and mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture.

Another cause is too much nitrogen fertilizer. High nitrogen also encourages more leaf growth on vegetables, annuals and perennials, frequently at the expense of produce and flowers.

Mothballs in the landscape

enzo moth ballsSome people use mothballs in the landscape to deter squirrels, chipmunks, mice, snakes and other critters. This is an illegal use of a registered pesticide and can cause damage or death to humans and pets.

In 2010, the National Pesticide Information Center reported 1,514 inquiries about mothballs, a 30 percent increase from 2009. More than half (862) were incidents, such as toxic exposure, including 617 reports of misapplication. Nearly 200 incidents involved children under 5 years of age, placing mothballs’ main chemical, naphthalene, at the top of  “25 active ingredients for incidents.”

The chemical can cause a raft of problems when inhaled or ingested, such as cataracts, anemia, liver damage and, in infants, neurological disorders, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Always read and follow the label directions on any home, lawn and garden product.

Two new daisies shine in the Indiana garden

'Banana Cream' shasta daisy. (C) PerennialResource.com

'Banana Cream' shasta daisy. (C) PerennialResource.com

Shasta daisies come and go, but two in my garden look like they have staying power.

Famous horticulturist and plant breeder Luther Burbank named the shasta (Leucanthemum) in honor of California’s Shasta Mountain. Most shastas bloom for brief periods, but a few varieties provide a show all summer.

First up is ‘Banana Cream,’ a lovely 2010 introduction from Walters Gardens, a Michigan plant breeder. The 4-inch wide flowers open lemony yellow and fade to a buttery yellow as they age. The stems are very sturdy, keeping the plant upright.

This spring- to fall-blooming perennial gets about 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It does best with six or more hours of direct sun a day in average soil. In my garden, it seems to be disease resistant, although some bug made tiny holes in the leaves this spring.

‘Banana Cream’ has low to average water needs, although most plast do best with adequate moisture when flowering. Deadheading — removing the spent flowers — encourages more blooms for a longer period.

<p>Grow Daisy May in a pot for summer enjoyment then transplant to the ground in fall. Photo courtesy Proven Winners</p>

Grow Daisy May in a pot for summer enjoyment then transplant to the ground in fall. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

The flowers last for two weeks or more when cut for indoor arrangments.  ‘Banana Cream’ is widely available at area garden centers and on-line retailers.

Introduced in 2011 is Proven Winners’ new shasta,  marketed as Daisy May. About 24 inches tall and 14 inches wide, it is a strong, upright, long blooming perennial with many 3-inch wide, pure white flowers. Plant in full sun and water regularly. Deadheading keeps it blooming longer. This may be a bit harder to find this season, but Daisy May should be plentiful next year.

Besides the freshness daisies add to the landscape, the greatest impact comes when they are planted in clumps of three or more plants or in drifts. The long bloom period of these two daisies makes them ideal companions with summer annuals.

Leaf-cutter bees give leaves the three-hole punch

Leaf cutter bees use disks cut from leaves of many plants, including Baptisia, to make individual cells in their nest. (C) Photo courtesy V. Schneider

Leaf cutter bees use disks cut from leaves of many plants, including Baptisia, to make individual cells in their nest. (C) Photo courtesy V. Schneider

V. S. of Indianapolis asks what could be eating her false indigo (Baptisia).

“I cannot find any sign of an insect on the plants, but it looks like holes have been made in the leaves with a paper punch. They are small, round holes,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The reader describes the damage made by the non-aggressive leaf-cutter bee (Megachile), an important native insect for pollinating vegetables, fruits and flowers. It is slightly smaller and darker than a honeybee.

“These bees are so effective at pollination that alfalfa seed producers buy masses of bee pupae so that adults are available to pollinate the alfalfa crop,” wrote Purdue University entomologist Tom Turpin in a 2007 “On Six Legs” publication.

Leaf-cutter bees like many plants, including purple sand cherry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Leaf-cutter bees like many plants, including purple sand cherry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Most of us are familiar with honeybees and bumble bees, which live in colonies in hives. All other bees are solitary bees, including the leaf cutter bee, orchard mason bee and carpenter bee.

Solitary females lay eggs on mounds of ready-to-eat pollen or honey, in the ground, a hole in wood or hollow-stemmed plant.

“The leaf-cutter bees cut circles out of plant leaves to partition their nests into individual cells. Solitary bees do the child rearing as a single parent,” Turpin said. “But they get the job done and, in the process, contribute to fruit and berry production in many home gardens.”

No pesticides are labeled for use on leaf cutter bees, so none is recommended. The damage to plants is aesthetic, and outweighed by the little bee’s benefits.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day July 2011

<p>Deep Orange Bonanza marigold and Deep Blue angelonia from Ball Horticulture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp</p>

Deep Orange Bonanza marigold and Deep Blue angelonia from Ball Horticulture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

My yard is a mess. Working too many hours, the weather is too hot when I have time off, completing a book and then, there’s the garden center, which drains you regardless of the weather.

'Mardi Gras' sneezeweed (Helenium) mixed with black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia and a stray larkspur. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

'Mardi Gras' sneezeweed (Helenium) mixed with black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia and a stray larkspur. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

But there’s joy in the wonders of nature, which just keeps pumping out flowers, rain or shine, hot or dry, with barely any care at all. I’m a benign-neglect style of gardener, so most of nature, suits me fine.

Early blooming fragrant lily perfumes the front yard. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Early blooming fragrant lily perfumes the front yard. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

On July 15, the last three flowers of the tall, unnamed lily (Lilium) still perfume the air. I think it’s either a white henryii, which Old House Gardens say does not exist, or it could be ‘Albany,’ an Orienpet, but I don’t remember having one, unless Sally Ferguson of the late, great, Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center, sent it several years ago.

The lily thrives in almost full shade. A bit of dappled sun is all it gets. But every year, in early summer, it grows to about 6 feet tall and explodes with large, creamy white, fragrant, waxy flowers with dark pinkish centers. I wonder if the lack of sun makes the centers look darker. Soon, the fragrance from ‘Black Beauty’ lily, a Turk’s cap, will take over.

Echinacea 'Mistral' from Blooms of Bressingham. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Echinacea 'Mistral' from Blooms of Bressingham. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Another testament to a plant’s resilience is the blooming ‘Mistral,’ a new Echinacea introduction from Blooms of Bressingham. It’s a sport of ‘Kim’s Kneehigh,’ and gets about 12 to 18 inches tall. I got several to trial this spring and they are doing just fine, blooming their heads off in 4-inch pots waiting for their ‘forever’ home.

Lady Elsie May rose. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Lady Elsie May rose. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Like last year, the sneezeweed (Helenium) ‘Mardi Gras’ is in full, glorious bloom and has been since mid-June. I must say, for a plant that is not supposed to bloom until late July or August, this one always seems to get an early start with amazing staying power. This year, a blue larkspur (Delphinium consolida) has sown itself in the mix along with some black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia).

Really, I’m not a rose (Rosa) person, but I love ‘Lady Elsie May,’ a small shrub rose with a lovely pinkish flower and very, very clean foliage. It’s in the garden right outside the living room windows, but there are so many weeds in that bed that it’s an embarrassment. I need more time.

roses a plenty aSpeaking of time and roses, I got about 40 from a grower in California. They were tiny plugs and they came without warning while I was working full time at the garden center. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but growers and marketers need to let us know when they are sending plants. Most of them do. And, frankly, sending 40 of any one plant is a lot, especially for me and my small, urban garden, which is getting more and more shady.

I confess, I left them in the flats for weeks, only occasionally throwing a little water on them. Let the strongest survive, I thought. About 10 days ago, I had some time and potted up an amazing two dozen in 4-inch pots. Maybe I’ll share them with friends, family, community gardens. Unfortunately, the tags were not well affixed, so some are you-guess-ems.

Native poke weed (Phytolacca americana) adds high drama in the perennial garden. Robins love the berries. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Native poke weed (Phytolacca americana) adds high drama in the perennial garden. Robins love the berries. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Lastly, I will have a little more time on my hands, because I’ve resigned my post as manager of perennials and woody plants at the large, independent garden center in Indianapolis, effective July 30. I’ve worked there seasonally and full time for about nine years, where I  learned a tremendous amount with great appreciation.

I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but growing adventures will no doubt will be a part of it.

Too much rain stresses Indiana garden plants

Leaf spot on oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Leaf spot on oakleaf hydrangea. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

With all of the rain and cool temperatures we’ve had, the plants are ripe for a couple of problems gardeners should be on the look out for.

Rot, leaf spots and other types of disease may appear on vegetables, shrubs, perennials and some annuals. Many fungus diseases are soil borne and are splashed onto plants with the rain or overhead watering. Rot may develop where the stem of the plant meets the soil.

Some perennials, such as garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), bee balm (Monarda) and Coreopsis are more susceptible to powdery mildew or other fungus problems than others.

Shrubs, such as Hydrangea, lilac (Syringa), ninebark (Physocarpus) and roses (Rosa) also can be affected by leaf spots and mildew.

In the annual category, million bells petunias (Calibrachoa), snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), Begonia and succulents may be subject to rot with too much rain. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), basil (Ocimum basilicum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) also may get diseased with all of the rain.

Too much rain rotted million bells (Calibrachoa). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Too much rain rotted million bells (Calibrachoa). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

What to do? Fungicides do not get rid of the disease on leaves but may prevent the disease from taking hold on new growth. There natural fungicides on the market, including copper or sulfur fungicide or neem oil.

To help prevent rot, make sure plants have good drainage, but once it’s on a plant, it is usually fatal.

The rain also has encouraged a lot of growth on all kinds of plant. That fresh new growth is an invitation for certain insects, such as aphids, which can distort or stunt leaves and flower buds. Spray affected plants with a strong stream from the hose to knock off the insects. A treatment of insecticidal soap may be necessary if aphids or other soft-bodied insects return in great numbers.

Too much rain also can drown plants, decrease the number of flowers and slow fruit and vegetable development. If needed, apply an all-purpose fertilizer according to label directions to replenish nutrients being washed away by the rain.

HortusScope July 2011

HortusScope, a checklist of garden and nature related things to do in Central Indiana has been posted. This calendar is compiled by Wendy Ford of Landscape Fancies as a pubic service. Click on the link below to download your copy.

HortusScope for July 2011,

Tour gardens July 9 to see native plants in the landscape

July 9, 2011
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo courtesy Wildflower.org

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a garden-worthy native plant. Photo courtesy Wildflower.org

The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society annual garden tour will be July 9, 2011 in the Indianapolis and Lafayette area. The tour is a great way to see what native plants look like in a residential landscape. The tour is free, but registration is required to get the locations.

Basjoo banana plant is hardy (with a little protection) in USDA Zone 5

Basjoo banana tree in an Indianapolis garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Basjoo banana tree in an Indianapolis garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

One of the rare tropical plants Hoosiers can grow in their landscape is a hardy banana called Musa basjoo (pronounced moo-sa bass-sue)

The roots of this fast-growing, large-leaf plant survive when protected in winter in USDA Zone 5, which includes central and northern Indiana.

“You do not have to be a tropical geek, but you must put in some effort,” says Irvin Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Etienne has tended hardy bananas at the IMA and in his own Fountain Square garden for several years.

Plant hardy banana in a sunny spot where it has lots of room.

All bananas get torn up a bit by wind, Etienne says, so placing it where winds will be blocked may help. It grows about 6 feet a year.

If the banana is planted in well-drained soil rich, in organic matter, fertilizer may not be necessary. Water is important if there’s no rain. “They have big fleshy leaves, so they won’t be happy dry,” he said.

There are a couple of options for wintering the plant over outdoors. Once the leaves have been killed by frost, Etienne recommends erecting a 3-foot tall cage or fence a foot or two away from the trunk. He fills the cage with oak leaves because they don’t mat down. November is a good time for this.

Cut the tree back to the top of the cage or allow the leaves to collapse against the trunk. Either way, cut it back to new growth in spring. Unearth in mid to late April. The plant probably will not bloom or bear fruit in Indiana.

Native plant tour

Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society annual garden tour will be next July 9, 2011 in the Indianapolis and Lafayette area. The tour is a great way to see what native plants look like in a residential landscape. The tour is free, but registration is required to get the locations.