March 2013

How to prune Knock Outs and other tips on care of ‘everyday’ roses

Flower Carpet Coral rose. Photo courtesy Flower Carpet Roses

There still seems to be a lot of confusion about how to care for some of the newer roses in our landscapes.

Knock Out, Drift, Flower Carpet, Oso Easy, Storybook, Simplicity and several in the Easy Elegance series are shrub roses. Sometimes called landscape or ground cover roses, these are generally low maintenance plants, which are disease and insect resistant. The most questions are about pruning these roses.

“My Knock Out bushes have become quite large since planting about six years ago. How low should I trim them back? When is the right time to do this?,” writes reader G.R.

J.O. writes “I have two rose bushes which I have let get too tall and leggy.”

Most of the shrub roses can be cut back about as far as you would like. That can be one-third, one-half or down to about 10 or 12 inches from the ground. Pruning can be done to shape up the plant or to reduce its size. Always use sharp pruning tools.

“I suggest you prune when the forsythia start to bloom, which is usually around March or April,” writes Paul Zimmerman in Everyday Roses: How to Grow Knock Out and Other Easy-Care Garden Roses, published in February (Taunton Press, $22.95, paperback).

Start with removing any dead wood or crossed branches. Always cut back to healthy growth. Leaving spindly branches at the top means the flowering will not be a great, wrote Zimmerman, coordinator of the Biltmore International Rose Trials and an American Rose Society Certified Consulting Rosarian.

Zimmerman recommends applying an organic, time-release fertilizer in spring and late summer. Although roses do not need a lot of water, they do need a good deep soaking every week to 10 days. In my experience, irregular watering will disrupt the flowering process for a few weeks. Shrub roses generally flower for six weeks, rest for a couple of weeks, then start blooming again.


Elderberry focus of herb symposium April 20

April 20, 2013
9:00 AMto3:00 PM

What: Elderberries, Fairies & Herbs,  spring symposium sponsored by the Herb Society of Central Indiana.

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 20, 2013.

Where: Hamilton County 4-H Fair Grounds, 2003 Pleasant St., Noblesville, Ind.

Admission: Cost $40, registration deadline April 13.

For more info: Herb Society of Central Indiana, (317) 251-6986.

Black Beauty elderberry (Sambucus). Elderberry is the 2013 Herb of the Year. Photo courtesy Proven Winners/ColorChoice Plants.

About the symposium:

Features Elderberry, the International Herb of the Year, with speaker Carolee Snyder of Carolee’s Herb Farm; Using Herbs to Create a Fairy Garden with Master Gardener Darlene Trusty; and Herbal Baskets with Mary Buckles of Prairie Home Herbs. Also, herbal treats, catered luncheon, silent auction, plants and herbal products.

Indiana Garden School set for April 6 in Anderson

April 6, 2013
9:00 AMto3:30 PM

What: The Indiana Garden School, sponsored by the Madison County Master Gardener Association.

When: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT, Saturday, April 6, 2013, registration begins at 8 a.m.

Where: Madison Park Church of God, 6077 Providence Drive, Anderson, Ind.

Admission: $30/individual; $40/family, includes lunch.

Contact: Steve Doty,, (317) 485-5593.

More info:

Keynote speaker is Joe Stasey, a Hamilton County Master Gardener and Tree Steward.  Roy Ballard, Hancock County Extension Educator, will cover vegetable gardening and gardening for pollination and Master Gardener Karen Lackey will teach how to cook what is harvested from the garden. Brian MacGowan will share his knowledge on wildlife backyard habitats and controlling wildlife damage around the yard. Diane Shafer will discuss some wildlife that she has rehabitated. Kevin Tungesvick will teach how to improve landscapes with wildflowers. Marion County Extension Educator Steve Mayer will talk about environmentally friendly lawns and how to get nine months of color with flowering trees and shrubs.

Chicago Botanic Garden rates asters


Raydon's Favorite aster got top marks in the Chicago Botanic Garden trial gardens. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

In its well-regarded plant evaluation program, the Chicago Botanic Garden trialed asters between 2003 and 2009 and recently released the findings.

Before we start with recommendations, a brief primer. Asters used to have the scientific name Aster, but plant-naming experts (called taxonomists) say that’s no longer the case. Today, we may find asters listed as Aster, Eurybia and Symphyotrichum, depending on their genetic makeup.

In the CBG trials, seven out of nearly 120 asters received five-star excellent ratings, garnered for the number of flowers, form and ability to withstand insects, diseases and drought. Most asters do best in full sun, moist well-drained soil. Some are tolerant of shade and dry conditions.

Here are the winners:

‘Jindai’ Aster tataricus spreads by underground stems, called rhizomes, to develop 32-inch wide colonies. It will get about 4 feet tall before its violet-blue flowers bloom in late September into late November or early December.

The species wood aster (Eurybia divaricata) and the cultivar ‘Eastern Star’ are among the few asters that tolerate shade ‘Eastern Star’ gets 21 inches tall with a 36-inch spread. The cultivar’s 1 ¼-inch white flowers are almost twice the size of the species. These bloom from late August into November.

‘Snow Flurry’ heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) only gets 8 inches tall but has a 48-inch spread. “No description of the small white flowers does justice to the actual stunning floral display,” writes Richard Hawke, who oversees the CBG evaluations. ‘Snow Flurry’ is also tolerant of dry conditions.

The species of calico aster and the cultivar ‘Lady in Black’ (S. lateriflorum) have white flowers. The cultivar gets 34 inches tall and 50 inches wide with purple foliage.

My favorite is ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (S. oblongifolium), a long-blooming cultivar of a native species. The lavender-blue flowers emerge in August and continue into November. This plant gets about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide.


Sullivan Garden & Patio Show March 23 and 24, 2013

March 23, 2013
12:00 PMto12:45 PM
1:00 PMto1:45 PM
3:00 PMto3:45 PM
March 24, 2013
12:00 PMto12:45 PM
2:00 PMto2:45 PM

Second annual Sullivan Hardware Garden & Patio Show will be March 23 and 24, 2013 at 71st and Keystone. Learn about Big Grene Eggs, Fair Gardening, Edible Gardening, Shade Plants, Successful Container Gardening and more. The free seminars begin at 11 a.m. each day. the first 250 customers get a free pansy (perfect for planting in a pot now for spring color).

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, March 23

11 a.m., Big Green Basics with Paul Schnieders and Dave Betz, kings in the outdoor cooking arena.

Noon, Fairy Gardening with Marilou Buddenbaum from Wildflowers and Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

1 p.m., Edible Gardening.

2 p.m., Lawns, Gardens and Useless Information with Dick Crum and Pat Sullivan.

3 p.m., Shade Plants with Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

Sunday, March 24

11 a.m., Breakfast on the Big Green Egg with Paul Schneiders and Dave Betz.

Noon, Successful Container Gardening with Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

1 p.m., Lawns, Gardens and Useless Information with Dick Crum and Pat Sullivan.

2 p.m., Shade Plants with Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.

For more info: (317) 255-9230


Grenada spices up the traveler’s life


Grenada Bay. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A four-hour flight from Miami takes you directly to St. George’s, Grenada, a launching pad to spices, chocolate and all the West Indies offers.

Known as the Spice Island, at 133 square miles, Grenada is about the size of Atlanta. During a five-day stay (or even better, a week or more), visitors can immerse themselves in tropical splendor: mountains, rain forests, luscious landscapes, balmy weather and intoxicating views of the Caribbean and Atlantic oceans. As an added benefit, several Grenadians open their private gardens for tours.

Lunch at Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Accommodations vary from the luxurious Spice Island Beach Resort, which is well suited for a couple’s intimate getaway, to Mount Cinnamon, which is designed more for families. Most beach resort rentals are for seven days and may include meals and other amenities, depending on your guest plan.

Fresh, local food, including vegetables, fruits, juices, herbs, seafood and some meats are commonplace. Most beef is imported. During the day, locals and tourists, including hundreds of cruise passengers, spill into the spice market along brick streets in downtown St. George’s. The low-cost shopping excursion yields nutmeg, turmeric (called saffron by the locals), cinnamon, ginger, peppers, pimento, curry and dozens of other spices for tasty souvenirs or gifts for foodies.

Besides spices, Grenada is known for its chocolate. Grenada Chocolate Company’s bars are a rich, dark, organic blend of cacao, nubs, tropical bay leaf and vanilla. The company feeds its chocolate habit with 150 acres of cacao trees. From a building about the size of a two-car garage, the Grenada Chocolate Company mixes, melts and molds its satisfying melt-in-your-mouth bars, which have garnered the Silver Award from the London Academy of Chocolate.

Nearly every scrap of land is planted: banana, cacao, nutmeg, hibiscus, mimosa, cinnamon, plumera (frangipani) and flamboyant trees are common. The predominant color, though, is green in luscious shades and textures, punctuated by seasonal tropical flowers.

Grenada is a study of green hues and textures punctuated by spots of tropical flowers. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Hedges of bougainvillea, the country’s national flower, define many properties. Gardeners pair colorful crotons and other broad-leafed plants with a delicate, frothy euphorbia reminiscent of the popular summer annual ‘Diamond Frost’, only much larger. White, pink and red gingers, heliconia, or false bird of paradise, palms and alamander adorn private gardens, parks and resort landscapes.

Grenada has several private gardens that are open to the public by appointment or through tour groups, including Gardening Tours, Sunsation Tours or Caribbean Horizons. In January 2011, the Grenada Board of Tourism invited garden and travel writers from the United States and Canada to be guests on the island for several days. Put on your walking shoes and take the tour. Here’s a sampler:

Hyde Park Tropical Garden, St. George’s

Gazebo overlooks Grenada Bay at Hyde Park. (C) Veronica Sliva

Fay Roberts Miller is the sixth generation of her family to reside on the 1 ½ acres that remain from the original 13-acre estate. The home and gardens offer breath-taking views of The Lagoon and the St. George’s shoreline. The property, which was vacant for several years, was renovated in 2000, when Fay Miller and her husband, John, returned to the island to retire.

Shortly after their arrival, the Millers hired noted Venezuelan landscape designer Christopher Baash to transform the primarily farm and grazing land into an orderly landscape with structure, beauty and splendid views. Although blessed with rich organic soil, many of the gardens are steep.

Besides dozens of orchids, a strong focal point is the traveler’s palm, so named for its capacity to store rain water, says Ian Blaikie, a guide for Sunsation Tours. Also of interest is the Annatto tree, which produces seeds used as a coloring for food and cosmetics.

Sunnyside Gardens, St. George’s,

Muracoy tortoises at Sunnyside Gardens in Grenada. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Jean Renswick is the matriarch at this compound that has been in her family since the 1920s. A regular stop for garden enthusiasts from cruise ships, Sunnyside is almost as well known for its muracoy tortoises as it is its rolling hills, inviting pathways and gorgeous plants.

Despite severe hurricane damage in 2004 and 2005, Sunnyside rebounds. A strikingly beautiful feature are the mounds of Zoysia grass that recall a Japanese garden set against lush tropical growth.


St. Rose Nursery & Garden, St. George’s, (473) 440-5870

Brugmansia drip above visitors at St. Rose Nursery & Garden in Grenada. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Famous tropical nurseryman John Criswick lovingly tends his fringe of a rain forest, where he grows hundreds of plants — brugmansia, croton, euphorbia — for the island’s landscapers, gardeners and designers. Suzanne Gaywood has relied on Criswick’s exquisite selections for her Gold Medal winning Grenada displays at Chelsea Flower Show the last several years. He grows plants because he loves everything about them. For a gardener, no trip to St. George’s would be complete without a visit to a nursery. “Here in the tropical forest you cannot tell where the nursery ends and the forest begins,” says Donna Dawson of Gardening Tours.


Balthazar Estate, Grenville

Denis Noel’s family plantation grew banana, cacao and nutmeg until recently, when he started to focus on the cut flower trade. Acres of ginger, heliconia and other tropical plants are harvested throughout the year for West Indies’ hotels, restaurants and florists. His flowers also can be found in award-winning designs at the Chelsea Flower Show.


It’s spring in the neighborhood

Crocus forms sea of blue in neighbor's yard. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A walk through the neighborhood reveals that spring has finally emerged from its winter sleep.

Landscapes are filled with the earliest blooming bulbs: species crocus, snow drops, winter aconites and the tiny iris reticulata. The Dutch call these special bulbs, but we usually call them minor bulbs.

Last fall, I planted more than 100 Tommie crocus (Crocus tommasinianus), a species type that is great for naturalizing. It will be quite a few years before my front yard looks like a neighbors, which literally looks like a sea of lavendar blue. Each year, the sea gets larger and larger as these crocus send their seeds flying. Chipmunks and squirrels tend to ignore these tiny bulbs.

Winter aconites. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Not far from the blue is another neighbor whose landscape is filled with winter aconites (Eranthus). These small, daisy-like yellow flowers naturalize, too. They tend to drop seed to form patches of sunny yellow to brighten the landscape. I’ve planted winter aconite a few times, but they have not shown up in great numbers. I’ve had the same touch-and-go relationship with spring anemone (Anemone coronaria) or wood anemone (A. nemerosa).

Also on the spring docket are Iris reticulata, beautiful blooming plants that look like a miniature iris. These come is lots of shades of blue and purple and also yellow and white. These bulbs are extremely hardy and tough. They have naturalized along the hell strip next to the asphalt driveway, where there is a lot of heat bounce and an occasional bit of foot traffic. These tend to spread in clumps as the under ground bulbs multiply.

After years of trying, I’ve finally succeeded in getting a small patch of the snow drops (Galanthus nivalus) to take. They get their name because they frequently bloom in snow, especially if they get good light early in late winter. Here’s hoping their numbers multiply.


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day March 2013

'Angelina' sedum in winter. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Ok, I’ve been away for a few months. Did you miss me? I have kind of missed being a part of the group, tracking what’s going on in the landscapes and yards of friends far and wide.

Despite the challenges of work, life has been good. I spent four days in Los Angeles recently to work on two commercials for a garden product. I had to make gardens look like June 1 in the Midwest and Northeast. That was a challenge, trying to make that happen with plants that looked an awful lot like California and not too much like Indiana or Massachusetts. But we got it done, scouring garden centers for real lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) and not California lilacs (Ceanothus spp.) and other plants.

Iris reticulata. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


Snow drops. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

And with all the skill of a pseudo trompe l’oeil artist, silk plants were stuck in the ground or wired to shrubs to complete the illusion.

But who can complain about four days of 80-degree days, blue skies and just the right breeze. Accommodations at The Shutters in Santa Monica were first rate, even if a bit quirky. How many hotel rooms have you been in that come equipped with a yo-yo?

Trevi Fountain pulmonaria. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Returning to March’s lion-like entrance March 2, followed by a weekend of 60-degree days, encourages me to think the windy month will go out like a lamb.

The warm days definitely caused plants to pop from the ground. Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus) have formed their seas of blue in one of my neighbors’ lawns and have begun to form blue puddles in my yard. Note to self: Don’t plant yellow crocus in the lawn because they sort of look like dandelions.

Closing following the show of early crocus are the tiny Iris reticulata. There are probably or Iris species planted, but they are all iris reticulata to me. And, I’m grateful that the two new stands of snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) I planted last fall have graced me with their presence this spring.

I give it to ‘Trevi Fountain’ Pulmonariafrom Terra Nova Nurseries for pulling through another droughty summer and chilly winter. The leaves have been there most of the winter and are beginning to brighten in the spring light. Never any

Cinnamon Snow hellebore. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

mildew on this beauty, either. I’ve had this plant since the 1990s.

Crocus forms sea of blue in neighborh's yard. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I also can’t deny my love of ‘Angelina’ Sedum rupestre, which honestly looks as good in winter and it does in summer. I especially like a very large stand of the hardy perennial in another neighbor’s yard.

And, where would we be without hellebores? I can’t say enough good things about ‘Cinnamon Snow’ (Helleborus ballardai), one of the Helleborus Gold Collection, which has been blooming since December and it still going strong, albeit a little ratty from some of the harsh winds and snow.

Spring and the plants that emerge nourish hope in the gardener. I’m ready. (Should I mention the winter annual purple henbit (Lamium purpureum) is blooming? Hoe, hoe, hoe.

Winter annual (Lamium purpurea)



Listen up! Low- no-chemical lawn and garden advice

March 16, 2013
7:30 AMto8:00 AM
10:30 AMto11:00 AM
March 17, 2013
6:00 AMto6:30 AM

The Hoosier Gardener joins Eric Halvorson on his occasional radio program this coming weekend in Indianapolis:

10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 16, WXNT-AM (1430)

6 a.m., Sunday, March 17, MY1079, (WNTR–FM 107.9)

7:30 a.m., Sunday, March 17, WZPL-FM (99.5)n


Spring arrives at the 55th Indiana Flower & Patio Show


HIttle Landscape Reclaim Your Backyard. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Urban living takes center state in the 55th annual Indiana Flower & Patio, which continues at the Indiana State Fairgrounds through Sunday, March 17, 2013.

Girly Steel sculpture. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

There’s 10,000 square foot urban homestead home and garden, which includes chickens, a large rain barrel and well-planted vegetable beds.

The landscape display gardens seem to rely on hardscape to attract visitors rather than plants. Like all garden shows, there is a lot of eye candy, especially the blue flowering hydrangeas, the envy of Hoosiers everywhere.

Other things to look for:

JP Parker Flowers moves out of the shadows and into a center island display called Die Moldau, complete with a grand piano. The island is full of buckets of cut flowers so visitors can take home a little spring.

The Forested Retreat by Gardens of Growth has a fascinating display with a large root ball of a downed tree, which was decorated with moss and other plants.

Twisted roots. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Hittle Landscaping’s Reclaim Your Backyard uses recycled doors to mark the entry to the garden and to provide a lovely screen.

Noblesville’s Girly Steel (Joan Drizin) sculpture appears in Stoneycreek Farm, Nursery & Landscaping’s Earth Friendly garden. The tops of wine bottles were turned into lanterns and the bottoms encased in a metal grid.

Be sure to stop by the Purdue Extension-Marion County Master Gardener booth and Purdue University’s statewide Master Gardener’s booth to get all of your gardening questions answered.


Urban homestead garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp