April 2012

Carolyn Harstad to speak in Irvington about speak native plants

May 19, 2012
1:00 PMto3:00 PM

Ok, native plant lovers…Carolyn Harstad will be in Indianapolis to speak at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 19, 2012. Carolyn is the author of “Go Native: Gardening With Native Plants and Wildflowers in the Lower Midwest” and “Got Shade? A Take It Easy Approach for Today’s Gardener” Her talk at Irvington Community School, 6040 East Pleasant Run Parkway, South Drive, will be on gardening with native plants. Sponsored by the Irvington Garden Club and Bookmamas, admission is free. Carolyn, a co-founder of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, and her husband, Peter Harstad, former head of the Indiana Historical Society, moved to Minnesota several years ago.


Plant pots have many reuses before they are recycled

(C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Sustainable landscaping can be a challenge, especially when you consider reduce, reuse, recycle.

Each year the garden industry puts plants in more than 2 million pounds of plastic pots. The pots are usually No. 2, 5 or 6 plastic, which can be recycled through many curbside programs. Some garden centers allow you to return pots as part of a recycling program, so ask what’s available where you shop.

Check with schools with garden or horticulture programs to see if they accept pots for their growing projects. The first Saturday in October, the Indianapolis Museum of Art Greenhouse accepts clean pots for reuse in its operation.

Many avid gardeners also reuse these containers. Four-inch pots are perfect for starting seeds, growing seedlings or for propagating plant cuttings. These also are a good size for holding pencils, pens and plant tags.

One-gallon pots or larger work well for holding transplants or plant divisions until ready to plant. These pots also are handy for taking plants with you when you move from one home to another or to share with friends.

Three gallon or larger nursery pots can be filled with potting mix and planted with tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other vegetables, herbs or small, fruit-bearing shrubs, such as blueberry. The nursery pots usually are black and not wholly unattractive, making them usable for ornamental plants, too, such as annuals or small shrubs, such as a rose.

These larger pots are handy for stowing hand tools, gloves, plant tags, twine and other garden essentials. Nursery pots make a useful receptacle when weeding or cutting back plants.

As far as reduce, some growers have started providing pots made of papier-mache, plant fibers called coir, paper or other biodegradable materials. These pots decompose, so they can be planted with plants in them. Or, the plants can be removed and planted and the pots tossed in the compost pile, where they will break down.

Many plants got hit hard with the seasonal freezes and frosts

Electric Lime coral bells were among plants damaged in the Hoosier Gardener's garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Even though this past winter was hardly noticeable and spring has raged between 80-degree and 29-degree days, the best time to plant warm season plants is May 10.

Most of what we eat are warm season crops: tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, beans, corn, eggplant, sweet potatoes and melon.

If you feel like you must plant something, go for cool season crops. These include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, peas, lettuces, radishes, potatoes, collards and Brussels sprouts. These can be planted in March and April.

Basil and rosemary are frost tender, but parsley, sage, thyme and oregano can be planted early

Among annual flowers, warm season plants include geraniums, impatiens, petunias, salvias, coleus, zinnias and begonias. May 10 is best for planting these.

Osteospurmums, pansies, California poppies, larkspur and bachelor buttons are annuals that can take a bit of spring chill.

The summer-like temperatures have pushed growth on almost everything in the garden. The plunge back to the 20s more than likely took a toll on several perennials, shrubs and fruit trees.

If coral bells (Heuchera) got nipped, just snip off the damaged leaves. New leaves will flush out over the next few weeks. The foliage on late blooming bulbs, such as giant allium, also took a hit, but the flower buds seem fine. Don’t remove the damaged bulb foliage until it turns yellow or brown and falls flat.

Some ground covers, such as pachysandra, myrtle and ivy also may have been zapped. Cut back damaged pachysandra because the dead parts may contribute to disease. Other ground covers will out grow the damage.

Big leaf hydrangeas likely lost their flower power with the April frosts and freezes. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

All those lovely, finicky big leaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) that came through our mild winter unscathed probably will not fulfill our expectations of lush pink or blue blooms. Temps in the 20s took a toll on them, too. I suggest waiting a few weeks to see if any flower buds show up. If not, but them back as needed in early summer.

Fabulous Foliage topic at Hussey-Mayfield Library in Zionsville

April 24, 2012
12:00 AMto8:00 PM

The Hoosier Gardener  takes you on a visual stroll through a collection of some of the best annuals, tropicals, bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees that make a statement by their leaves. Please register for this program.

Fruit trees likely took greatest hit during recent freeze

From Rosie Lerner, Purdue University Consumer Horticulturist

Magnolia flower freeze damage. Photo courtesy Purdue University.

As most gardeners have marveled, we’re having one of the earliest “spring” seasons this year, with woody plants herbaceous perennials three to six weeks ahead of “normal.”

And then, perhaps inevitably, “normal” spring frost and freeze visited. Being so much further along in their development, plants are quite vulnerable to damage.

Note that freeze incidents are normal for this time of year. What is abnormal is the earliness of development, leaving the plants exceptionally vulnerable to freeze.

The good news is that woody plants, in most cases, will outgrow the damage.

Oak leaf freeze damage. Photo courtesy Purdue University.

Home fruit-growers have reason to be concerned: At 28 F, you can expect a 10-percent loss of flowers and young developing fruit. However, at 25 degrees F, that loss increases to 90 percent! In the Lafayette area, the temps hit 27 to 28 degrees F the morning of April 12, followed by 24 to 25 degrees F the morning of April 13 — a double whammy.

Bud counts were exceptionally high until the freeze, so in some cases, even just 10 percent retained fruit might still be a decent crop on our tree fruits. Grapes may also still have ability to crop on shoots that have yet to emerge. Strawberries are a bit easier to protect through frost and freeze, but only if you took measures, such as using floating row covers, recovering with straw, etc.

However, it is only mid April, and additional frosts and freezes are still possible.

Bottom line is that unless it is already a complete loss, you won’t really know the rest of the story for quite a few more weeks.

Peach bud freeze injury. Photo courtesy Purdue University

It is easy to check fruit buds for damage by cutting open the bud and looking for dark brown or black centers. Purdue Extension fruit specialists put together these videos to help you assess the spring freeze damage on:






For ornamental trees and shrubs, plant response has been quite varied, depending on species, location and, of course, temperature and duration of that temperature.

Susceptible plants may have wilted leaves, brown or black necrotic spots on leaves, or perhaps dieback of entire twigs. Plants that were in bloom likely have brown petals or dropped flowers entirely. Here are some links to articles from previous spring freezes that will give more information.

Symptoms of Late Frost Injury

Spring Freeze Injury


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day April 2012

Allspice flower (Calycanthus florida). (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Last Saturday was my first day back at the garden center, where I quit last summer. Maybe we both needed a break, because I was invited back to work a few months during the peak season and I accepted.

That day, my first customer had drawn a sketch of his garden and had a plant list. He also was carrying around The Indiana Gardener’s Guide. I eventually told him I wrote the book. After that, he really opened up and asked me many questions. He bought several plants.

Amsonia tabernaemontana. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A young woman who recently moved here from Maine also was looking for plants for her new garden. She also had many questions, especially about how to screen an area of her yard from unwanted views. Initially, she asked about fast growing trees. I recommended using shrubs, such as leatherleaf or burkwood viburnums and why. She did not buy plants, but I feel like she’ll be back.

And, there were two women from southern Indiana and Louisville who had taken a snip off a plant where they had a meeting. They brought it in and I was able to identify it as eastern blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana).

Each commented on how great it was to find someone who knows about plants and can answer questions. It made me feel good about the value I bring to this garden center and to gardening in general. My goal is always to help people succeed. When they succeed, we all succeed.

In the garden:

Firefly silene. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

‘Firefly’ Silene (S. dioica) came a few years ago from Blooms of Bressingham and it is one of the earliest blooming perennials I have. It’s about 20 inches tall and will get about that wide, planted in full sun. Great for cut flowers, too.

May Night salvia (S. x sylvestris) is blooming beautifully this year, grateful that the Knock Out Rose that blocked a lot of the perennial’s light, is gone.

Cool Wave pansies. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The Cool Wave pansies from Ball Horticulture have weathered the weather with great stamina. They are beaming.

Soon, the blue balls on the big alliums (Allium) will unfurl, about a month early, just like about everything else. The leaves of the bulbs got nipped a bit by a couple of 20+ degree nights. The bulbs are a gift from May Dreams Gardens, the host for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

And, the ‘Electric Lime’ Heuchera also got nipped by the freeze. For this plant, I will snip off the damage leaves.

Frost-tinged heuchera 'Electric Lime'. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

One of my proudest successes is a native maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), which spent the gosh-awful hot summer in a gallon pot before being planted to the ground last fall. A very sweet customer at the garden center brought me a clump from her yard last summer when she heard me say how I’d not been able to find any in the trade.

Two more Blooms of Bressingham plants earn high marks this time of year — ‘Amethyst in Snow’ and ‘Amethyst Dream’ Centaurea are in full bloom. These are great cut flowers, that’s for sure. And although a bit of a vigorous grower, it is easy to control.

The sweet woodruff (Galium odorata) is beginning to bloom. This is a great little under used ground cover for shadier areas with average to slightly moist soil.

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are among the last blooming spring bulbs, making them a lovely surprise just when you think season is over.

Spanish bluebells. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


Spring is in the air

Spring bulbs are just one of the ingredients for a fragrant season. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

It’s easy to understand how the phrase ‘spring is in the air’ came to be.

You can smell it. From the spring bulbs to viburnums, lilacs and Cheddar pinks, the air is filled with fragrance for weeks.

You can see it. Spring flowers not only scent the air, they dazzle the eyes with color and texture along with the verdant greens of trees and shrubs.

You can hear it. Birds sing in the trees and bees buzz.

You can touch it and taste it. Lettuces, radishes and peas offer the first fruits of the new growing season.

Here are some spring favorites to consider for a landscape planted for the senses.

Viburnums, especially Burkwood (V. burkwoodii), Judd (V. juddii) and Koreanspice (V. carlesii) have beautiful, fragrant waxy flowers. They start out pink and turn white as they mature. Because the viburnums flower before nearby trees leaf out, the shrubs get enough light to bloom, yet tolerate a summer with filtered sun or part shade.

Mock orange (Philadelphus), sometimes called sweet mock orange, is a wonderful old-fashion shrub that deserves a place in the garden, even if its beauty lasts only for a few weeks. ‘Minnesota Snowflake’, ‘Natchez’ and ‘Dwarf Snowflake’ are good selections.

Lilacs, viburnum and fragrant spring bulbs perfume the season's air. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

For sunny spots, plant a lilac (Syringa). The old-fashion ones with the big flower cones are favorites for their colors and fragrance. Manchurian (‘Miss Kim’) and Korean (‘Paliban’) lilacs tend to bloom a little later with smaller flowers, but they are still fragrant and seemingly immune from the powdery mildew that plagues many old-fashion types.

Plant Dutch hyacinths (Hyacinthus) and fragrant tulips (Tulipa) and daffodils (Narcissus). ‘Angelique’ and ‘Apricot Beauty’ are two wonderful, long-lasting tulip selections. For daffodils, try ‘Geranium’, ‘February Gold’ and ‘Poeticus’.

No garden? Enjoy the scent of the season with a pot of pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) or stocks (Matthiola) from the garden center for the balcony or patio.


Win free tickets to Orchard in Bloom

Orchard in Bloom, an Indianapolis spring tradition, will be April 27 through 29, 2012 at Holliday Park.

The Hoosier Gardener has three pairs of tickets to be given away at a random drawing of readers who leave a comment below about Orchard in Bloom. If you have been before, share what you like. If you have never been, tell us why you would like to go. Each pair has a retail value of $20. The tickets were donated by Orchard in Bloom. Proceeds from the family friendly event support Orchard School and Holliday Park.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp will present Edible Landscapes each day as part of the Orchard in Bloom Symposium. Several other programs also are on the agenda, including Sara Snow’s Creating a Green Home, composting, backyard chickens, rain barrels and more.

Visitors will see beautiful landscapes created by some of the areas best landscape architects and designers. Other groups design mini-gardens that feature their favorite plants, such as hostas or native plants.

Vendors display collectibles, garden art and accessories, clothing and other merchandise. Not-for-profit groups will be on hand to distribut information about their activities.

Food and drinks are available at the show, which runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Your comments must be posted below by 6 p.m. Friday, April 20, 2012. Comments posted on Facebook do not qualify. The drawing will be at 8 p.m. Friday, April 20, 2012. Winners will be contacted by e-mail for an address where tickets can be mailed.

New blight on boxwood also threatens Japanese spurge

Early symptom of boxwood blight. Photo courtesy Connecticut Department of Agriculture

A worrisome new fungus found on boxwoods also threatens Japanese spurge, the popular ground cover, according to Purdue University’s Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory.

Boxwood (Buxus) blight (Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum) has been confirmed in Ohio, North Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Oregon. The same fungus recently was found to cause the disease on Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis). The disease was first reported late last year in Connecticut, where the disease was found on boxwoods in a residential landscape. In the other states and Canada, the blight has been found on boxwoods at nurseries and growers.

Although boxwood blight has not been found in Indiana, the Purdue plant experts recommend that property owners and landscapers be vigilant if planting new boxwoods or Japanese spurge in landscapes this spring. The Purdue lab asks to be contacted if you see symptoms on boxwoods or Japanese spurge.

“Recently, plant pathologists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that the fungus, which causes boxwood blight, can also cause disease on Pachysandra ground cover,” the Purdue lab reported March 19, 2012. Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) is part of the boxwood family.

The Connecticut research exposed healthy pachysandra plants to the spores of the fungus and within 10 days, lesions or small round spots developed. Three weeks after exposure, “many of the leaves with lesions yellowed and dropped,” the Purdue lab said. “This raises significant concerns about pachysandra as a potential source of (the spores) for infection of boxwood and vice versa.”

The leaf spot and dieback symptoms on the spurge may be confused with a common and widespread disease of Pachysandra, known as Volutella blight (see photo below).

Volutella blight on Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis). Photo courtesy Purdue University Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

You Can Grow That! April 2012: Tender, Summer Bulbs

Pineapple lily and oxalis add texture in the hosta garden.

For many gardeners, summer bulbs are as mysterious as the exotic places they come from.

Most bulbs that bloom in summer look different than their spring-blooming relatives. Many spring bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, have flat bottoms and pointy tops. Summer bulbs are more likely to look like a sprawling creature from the deep.

The term summer bulb includes corms (gladiolus), rhizomes (daylily) and tubers (begonia). Gardeners seem to be most familiar with cannas, caladiums, elephant ears (Alocasia or Colocasia), gladiolus and dahlias, which already are staples in perennial beds. But interest is on the rise for the less familiar summer bulbs, such as pineapple lily (Eucomis) and rain lilies (Zephyranthes).

Summer bulbs, from their ornamental foliage to fragrant flowers, have shot up in popularity because people are spending more time in their gardens and there’s more interest in cutting flowers to bring them indoors for enjoyment.

Summer bulbs tend to bring a lush, tropical feel to the garden, which some people have a hard time working into their landscape. However, gardening should be experimental. There’s nothing wrong with trying new things and moving plants around to get the look you want. Summer bulbs also are wonderful space fillers with perennials or, when planted in a pot, a focal point in the garden.

Many summer bulbs are tender, such as dahlais, and need to be dug after the first frost and wintered over. Others are perennial, such as lilies (Lilium), which winter over fine in the Indiana garden..

A drawback to planting tender summer bulbs may be confusion about when to dig them up if you plant to store them for the winter. Inexpensive tender bulbs should be treated as annuals and discarded at the end of the season.

Other, more valuable tender bulbs, can be grown in pots that are sunk in the ground and raised after the first frost for storage in a cool place that will keep them from freezing, but not too warm so they don’t sprout. Others plant the tender bulbs right in the ground and dig them up after the frost.

In general, tender bulbs should be dug after the first frost kills back the foliage. Brush off the soil and cut off the foliage that has been killed by the frost. Store the bulbs in dry peat moss, wood shavings or similar product, or just place them in a paper bag that remains open. Circulation is important. Check the bulbs periodically and remove any that are soft or mushy.

You Can Grow That! appears the 4th of the month. It was started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening.