January 2013

Online resources help gardeners learn about bugs, plants, birds and more


Yellow and black garden spider forms a zigzag pattern in the center of her nest. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

As we prepare (at least mentally) for the great spring warm up, I thought I’d share some online resources that can help you identify bugs, weeds and other pests, learn about plants and good combinations, garden to-do lists and more.

Focuses on North American spiders and insects. Has BugFinder, where you can fill out primary and secondary body colors, number of legs and state. I plugged in black and yellow body colors, eight legs, Indiana and the BugFinder came up with black-and-yellow garden spider (Argiope spp.)

Butterflies and Moths of North America works with researchers and citizen scientists, who contribute photos, tracking information and more.

Operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this site has photos, songs or calls, info on habitats and food sources. There also are maps of seasonal ranges, where birds nest and migration patterns.

Marion County Master Gardener and Purdue Extension-Marion County operate this site, where gardeners can ask about plant and landscape problems, houseplants, insects and diseases. Send questions and photos to, or call (317) 275-9292.

Garden News Break

Garden News Break has compiled information on hundreds of weeds, including many university sites, with photos. You’ll also find ways to prevent or fight weeds in the landscape.

University of California-Davis

The University of California-Davis has one of the best sites for information about integrated pest management and other environmentally friendly controls of insects, diseases and other pests.

Landscape designer and all-round good-gal Wendy Ford compiles a calendar of garden and nature-related activities and events in Indiana. It is published the first of each month.

Here you’ll find garden checklists for each month along with tips on how to accomplish the tasks.

Dave’s Garden Watchdog has a free directory of more than 7,500 online retailers, including consumer ratings, reviews and ordering tips.

This site offers all the dirt on perennials, including horticulture requirements and companion plantings.



Fake peregrine deters human, but not furry and feathered creatures

Fake falcon fools the human. Feathered and furry creatures are undeterred. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

My neighbors’ dog goes berserk at the site of squirrels, including the one that lives in a nest in their back yard tree.

In the hopes of deterring the squirrels, they mounted a fake peregrine falcon on the fence between our back yards. I noticed the falcon when standing at my kitchen sink. I had seen a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) in my neighborhood before, so I was excited.

I grabbed my camera and started snapping away. As I walked out of the front door to sneak around to the back fence, I mentioned to the neighbor that I thought there was a peregrine on the fence. He laughed and told me it was fake, installed in the hopes of keeping his dog calm.

The peregrine was mounted about 4 feet from the feeders for my birds, so I was worried it would deter their visits. I was pretty sure the fake peregrine would not deter the squirrels, which are very smart, creative creatures that are a No. 1 problem solver when it comes to getting food.

Standing by the kitchen sink about 10 days later, I watched a squirrel gingerly traipse along the top of the fence to within about 2 feet of the fake falcon. It walked up a nearby branch, back down the branch to the fence, scaled the fence to other side of the plastic bird, then on its way.

Fortunately, the birds became accustomed to the fake falcon and back to the feeders and so are the squirrels. I haven’t heard a report on how the dog is doing.

Spring Garden Clinic

The 19th annual Marion County Master Gardener Spring Garden Clinicwill be Saturday, Feb. 9 at St. Luke Methodist Church.


Variegated foliage perks up the landscape

The variegated leaves of Alaska Mix nasturtium not only look good, they taste good, too. So do the flowers. © iStockphoto/J. E. Vader

If you are tired of all-green leaves here are four plants with beautiful variegated foliage that spark up the landscape.


‘Alaska Mix’ nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) has green leaves splotched with creamy white markings and orange, red, yellow or salmon flowers. A cool-season annual, it tends to flag a bit when it gets too hot. ‘Alaska Mix’ is available from Renee’s Garden and Burpee.  Nasturtiums can be found at area garden centers for spring planting. Grow in sun to part shade in containers, hanging baskets or in the veggie garden. Add leaves and flowers in salads for a peppery flavor.

Annual vine

‘Pink Frost’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) has green and cream colored leaves with pink highlights. Grow sweet potato vine in full sun to light shade in a container or hanging basket. Sweet potato vine also makes a lovely seasonal ground cover. Available at most garden centers.


You just can’t beat Hosta when it comes to variegated foliage. There are hundreds of patterns that combine green or blue leaves with white, cream, pale yellow or gold markings. Hosta does best in shade to part shade, although a few cultivars can take some sun. Variegated hosta is great for brightening dark shade. Hosta is hardy in USDA Zones 3 through 9. Variegated hostas are readily available at garden centers and through online retailers.

Perennial vine

Arctic Beauty kiwi fruit (Actinidia kolomikta) has green, white and pink leaves and some variation of each. Hardy to USDA Zones 3 through 8, you need a male and female plant to get the edible fruit. Easily trained to a trellis or fence, September Sun is the female and Pashi is a male. Hardy kiwi plant tolerates part shade. This one may be hard to find, so try asking a garden center to order for you. Plants are available from Jung Seed and Terratorial Seed.


Emily Daniels honored in annual horticulture symposium at the IMA

Emily Daniels (left) and Kelly Frank. Photo courtesy Kelly Frank

A visit to Emily and Gil Daniels’ gardens, perched over White River in Crows Nest, was usually just a phone call away. But her death Nov. 30, 2012 at 82 and Gil’s move to Ohio ends the opportunity to tour one of the best private gardens in the city for Master Gardeners, garden clubs, plant societies, garden writers, photographers and others. Oklahoma Gardening’s profile of the Daniels’ garden is on You Tube.

“Emily and Gil were always extremely generous in offering visitors tours of their lovely property, explaining how certain areas were developed and how they came by the unbelievable number of intriguing specimens so carefully and artfully showcased,” say Mark Zelonis, the Ruth Lilly Deputy Director of Environmental & Historic Preservation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Emily’s passion for plants was nourished every few years by a daylong horticulture symposium held at the IMA, says Kelly Frank, a horticulturist who was the Daniels’ gardener for 10 years.

“The programs always had some new plant we had to have or some new perspective on the garden that she fancied. It was not uncommon to leave after a day of pure plant talk and want to rework the garden,” she says.

The symposium’s timing coincided with a strong yearning for relief from winter doldrums and Emily’s Feb. 16 birthday, Frank says. “Our small, but tight-knit horticulture community converged for a day of fellowship, learning, yearning, lunch and feeding our passion.”

To honor the longtime supporter, the IMA’s Division of Environmental & Historic Preservation will launch the annual Emily N. Daniels Horticultural Symposium with Shady Savvy on Feb. 14.

“As with most gardeners, Emily felt she was always learning new things, and as a result, was a constant presence at our previous horticulture symposia and lectures. We appreciate her longtime support and are honored to have her name associated with our new special event,” Zelonis says.


You Can Grow That! January 2013: Stachys ‘Hummelo’

Bet on this — Well-behaved betony ‘Hummelo’ blooms for several weeks in mid-summer. © Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Some time ago, a colleague asked me to help identify a perennial in her garden. It had square stems, low-growing leaves and several 12-inch stalks topped with dense, pink-lavender flowers.

It looked a lot like a sage (Salvia) and I scoured resources to confirm, but couldn’t find anything like it. Quite by accident, I came across the plant, Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo,’ also called betony. You may also find it listed as S. officinalis and S. densiflora.

Stachys also is the scientific name for lamb’s ear (S. byzantina). Lamb’s ear is a silvery gray, fuzzy-leafed perennial that spreads rapidly. ‘Hummelo’ has crinkled, fresh-green leaves and grows in a clump.

‘Hummelo’ is quite well behaved, maintaining a tight clump throughout the growing season. In a few years, the clump will get about 18 inches wide.

Sometimes called wood betony or alpine betony, this plant blooms in mid-summer. Removing the spent blooms, called deadheading, can extend this period. It prefers six or more hours of full sun a day. Like all stachys, it needs well-drained soil to thrive. Once established, it is drought tolerant. In fact, it is almost evergreen, retaining its green foliage well into winter. In spring, snip off winter-damaged leaves. Divide in spring every three or four years to remove the woody center.

Appreciated for its texture and form, this plant is hardy throughout most of the Midwest. Use in a border or mass it. A good cut flower, it can be grown in a container for summer enjoyment and transplanted to the garden in fall. It is deer resistant.

‘Hummelo’ got the highest marks in trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden, according to a report issued a few years ago. Good companion plants include coneflower (Echinacea), rattlesnake master or sea holly (Eryngium), Russian sage (Peroviskia), catmint (Nepeta), hardy geranium (Geranium) and stonecrop (Sedum).

‘Hummelo’ may be hard to find, so call your favorite garden center and ask if it is in stock. It also can be found through several Internet retailers.