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Plants for the wet areas of your landscape

Cardinal flower thrives in areas that stay moist. Hummingbirds love this late-blooming native perennials. Photo courtesy perennial resource.com

Cardinal flower thrives in areas that stay moist. Hummingbirds love this late-blooming native perennial. Photo courtesy perennial resource.com

What with more than twice our normal rainfall the several weeks, we have probable found places in our landscape where water pools or where the soil stays wet.

I thought about this recently when at Cardno Native Plant Nursery in Walkerton, Indiana, for the annual open house. Among the programs was one on native plants for the landscape, which included those for rain gardens and swales.

We may not have a rain garden or swale, but we may have wetter areas of the landscape where plants struggle. Here are some recommendations from Cardno, along with a few others, for native plants that can handle a moist environment.

For sunny areas:

  • Gayfeather (Liatris spicata) gets 2-4 feet tall and has spikes of purple flowers in mid summer. Butterflies and bees like this plant. Tolerates what’s called dry down, when the area drains the soil dries out. Gayfeather is a lovely addition to cut flower arrangements, too.
  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) has vivid red flowers that hummingbirds love. Gets 1-4 feet tall, and does best in areas that stay moist. Blooms in early summer. Tolerates rabbits and deer.
  • Blue flag iris ( versicolor or I. virginica) has slightly fragrant blooms in late spring and early summer. Gets about 2 feet tall and wide. Prefers rich, organic soil. Tolerates dry down and deer.
  • Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) has fragrant white, mauve or pink flowers atop 4-5 foot tall stems in mid to late summer. Supports monarch butterfly caterpillars and tolerates deer.

For shady areas:

  • Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) tolerates full sun but seems to do better when given a little shade. It gets 2-3 feet tall and has stalks of blue flowers mid summer to fall.
  • False Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa or Maianthemum racemosum) has white or cream colored flower on arched stems in spring. In fall, it sports red berries, which are great for use in flower arrangements. The plant gets about 2 feet tall.

 

 

Our summer of rain stresses garden plants

Too much rain is as stressful for garden plants as is drought or extreme heat and cold. Central Indiana has been undergoing an extended rainy period. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Too much rain is as stressful for garden plants as is drought or extreme heat and cold. Central Indiana has been undergoing an extended rainy period. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I don’t know about your garden, but part of mine is thriving and another part is suffering.

All this rain has pushed lush growth on hosta, hydrangea, coneflower and a lot of other plants, including weeds. Other plants are suffering with too much water, such as the dogwoods, even though they generally tend to prefer it more wet than dry.

The National Weather Services says June 2015 was the 7th rainiest on record in Central Indiana, with Indianapolis receiving 8.36 inches, 4.11 inches more than normal. Bloomington received 10.57 inches in June, more than twice its normal amount. July hasn’t been any drier. Before mid July, Indianapolis received 4.43 inches, which is very close to the 4.55 inches we normally receive for the full month.

Plants, including trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, can be as stressed by too much rain as they can by drought. Stressed plants are more susceptible to insects and diseases.

One of the telltale trouble signs of too much water is reddish-streaks on the leaves of trees and shrubs. My native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) shows the early signs of mildew, a leaf fungus. This has never happened before on these trees. Other symptoms include bleached, yellow or discolored leaves and wilting.

Too much rain can cause red streaks in dogwood (shown) and other shrubs and trees. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Too much rain can cause red streaks in plants, including dogwoods, such as ‘Cayenne’ (Cornus amomum) and other shrubs and trees. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

It may be difficult to image, but plants suffocate as heavy rains force oxygen out of the soil. The rain also flushes nitrogen and other elements quickly from the soil. Don’t do any supplemental watering, including the lawn when we’re in rainy periods.

Replenish lost nutrients with fertilizers, especially for vegetable plants. Read and follow label directions. And, as we discussed a few weeks ago amid the June deluge, keep an eye open for fungus disease. Pick off any yellow or splotchy leaves from tomato plants, peppers, herbs and other edibles as soon as you see them. Dispose of the diseased leaves in the trash, not in the compost pile. If watering becomes necessary, avoid overhead sprinklers.

Avoid walking on wet soil. Doing so, compacts the soil, which makes it harder for roots to grow and develop. It undoes all the hard work of working adding organic matter to improve the soil quality.

There’s a new Sweet Summer Love in my life

‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis blooms throughout most of the summer and into fall. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis blooms throughout most of the summer and into fall. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A new clematis has stolen my heart.

It’s hard not to be amorous over ‘Sweet Summer Love’, which has been blooming since late June and will continue into September, or maybe October.

This is a new version of the fragrant, sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora or C. paniculata) without all of its bad habits, such as smothering nearby trees and shrubs and self-slowing, as if there’s no tomorrow. Originally from Asia, this clematis’ overabundance of seedlings and smothering habit landed this white-flowering vine on Indiana’s invasive species list.

‘Sweet Summer Love’ is a fragrant, vigorous vine, and that’s about where the similarities end. It does not self-sow and being true to its name, blooms most of the summer.

'Sweet Summer Love' clematis flowers are about 2-inches wide and fragrant.

‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis flowers are about 2-inches wide and fragrant.

The flowers are very different, too. Instead of the numerous, but small, 1-inch wide blooms of sweet autumn clematis, ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is flush with 2-inch wide cranberry-maroon flowers. It was introduced by Proven Winners.

This clematis gets 6-10 feet tall and wide, but what I’ve been doing is weaving it back and forth among the arrowwood viburnum branches (V. dentatum) I’m using as a trellis. I removed the viburnum last fall, but saved the nice straight-as-an-arrow branches for reuse in just this manner.

‘Sweet Summer Love’ does not get clematis wilt, a soil-borne fungus disease that affects the larger-flowering clematises, such as ‘Jackmanii’, just as they burst into bloom. (Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about the wilt, except cut the plant back. It will regrow and may possibly rebloom.)

Grow ‘Sweet Summer Love’ in full to part sun with average soil. Give it a good drink of water periodically, especially during dry spells. If needed, cut back in late winter, leaving at least two buds on stems coming out of the ground.

As you can see, there’s a lot to love about this clematis.

No labels, please! Music is evolutionary process for Cockburn

cockburn

Twenty years ago, I saw Bruce Cockburn for the first time. Because I then worked at The Indianapolis Star, I was able to interview him ahead of his show at The Vogue. Heres’s the story.

No labels, please! Music is evolutionary process for Cockburn

Stay safe: Use caution when mowing the lawn

Be sure to dress for the job when moving the lawn. Wear substantial shoes and protect your sight and hearing. ©mBaba760/canstockphoto.com

Be sure to dress for the job when moving the lawn. Wear substantial shoes and protect your sight and hearing. ©mBaba760/canstockphoto.com

The other day, I saw a what appeared to be a father and son mowing the lawn. The dad pushed a gasoline-powered mower. The little boy pushed a toy mower and walked right behind his dad.

There’s a lot wrong with this cute image and I’m not even mentioning that the dad was wearing flip-flops.

About 250,000 people are treated annually for lawn mower related injuries, including about 17,000 children, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Injuries include cuts, maiming or amputations from mower blades and burns from the engine. People are injured by projectiles, such as rocks and sticks, thrown from the mower. About 90 deaths are attributed to riding mowers that overturn. A 17-year-old Kosciusko County boy was killed in April when his clothing got caught up in the mower he was working on.

AAP recommends that children be at least 12 years old before operating a walk-behind mower and 16 years old to operate riding equipment. Of course, the kids (and adults) need to be trained on how to use the equipment. Here are some other tips for lawn mower safety from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute:

  • Don’t mow when the lawn is wet.
  • Make sure children and pets are out of the area. It’s best if they are indoors.
  • Clear the area of any objects that could be thrown by the mower or caught in the blades, such as branches, stones and toys.
  • Make sure the mower is operating properly and that guards and safety devices have not been tampered with.
  • Dress properly. Wear substantial shoes, hearing protection and safety glasses.
  • Allow the engine to cool before refueling.
  • Use caution when mowing hills and slopes. It’s easy to lose your footing, which can cause people to slip and fall into the mower blades or engine. Most deaths from riding mowers are caused when the equipment falls over and crushes or runs over its operator.

 

For more information about operating power equipment safely and tips visit opei.org.

When mowing, remember not to remove more than one-third of the lawn blade at a time. If the grass is 4 inches tall, mow to 3 inches. Keep the lawn at 3 to 4 inches to shade the soil, keeping it cool and reducing opportunities for weeds to take hold. Cutting the lawn too short opens it up for sunscald, drought damage and overall weakened condition.