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Beautyberry lives up to its name in the fall garden

Purple Pearls beautyberry. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Purple Pearls beautyberry. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

If you are looking for a shrub that will perk up the fall season, check out beautyberry.

Although beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.) blooms in early summer, the tiny whitish-pink flowers are not showstoppers. What follows this time of year, though, is what earns this plant its name.

There’s a native beautyberry (C. americana), which is root hardy to USDA Zone 6 (minus 10 degrees), and does well in southern and central Indiana. The Asian beautyberry (C. dichotoma) hybrids are hardy in USDA Zone 5 (minus 20 degrees).

The native beautyberry gets up to about 6 feet tall and has large pinkish-purple berries along its arching stems. Asian hybrids come in several sizes, including smaller ones that mix well with perennials or other shrubs, with lush, purple berries. A Japanese species (C. japonica) gets 4-6 feet tall and wide. There’s also a native white-fruited beautyberry.

Beautyberry is very adaptable, but does best in full sun to part shade and average, well-drained soil. It is considered deer resistant. Beautyberry tolerates some drought, but may get leggy if growing in too much shade. I have ‘Issai’ growing in quite a bit of shade and it seems to do fine. The one in the sun, though, seems a bit more vigorous.

'Early Amethyst' beautyberry shows its fall colors. Photo courtesy Monrovia

‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry shows its fall colors. Photo courtesy Monrovia

It’s is common for this plant to die back in winter, which is all right, because beautyberry blooms on current season grown. I usually prune it back to 6-8 inches high in late winter or early spring.

The fruiting branches can be cut for indoor, fall arrangements or left on the plant for the birds.

‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry, which gets 3-4 feet tall and wide, turns a golden yellow in fall, which makes the purple berries pop even more

‘Issai’ beautyberry gets 3-4 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide.

‘Profusion’ is the largest one, at 6 feet tall and wide. Its fruit produces in large clumps.

One of the new introductions from Proven Winners/ColorChoice is Purple Pearls. It has purple tinged leaves, and gets 4-5 feet tall and wide.

Prepare for winter, and sprout micro greens, too

Botanical Interests  introduced ‘Peas for Shoots’ this year as part of the micro greens trend. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

Botanical Interests introduced ‘Peas for Shoots’ this year as part of the micro greens trend. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

If your houseplants summered outdoors, it’s time to bring them back inside, if you haven’t already. You want to do this once the night temps hit the 50s.

Before you move them indoors, give the plants a good shower from the hose, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves, as well as their tops and stems. The last thing you want is to cart any insects in with plants. At my place, the brown marmorated stink bugs seem to be taking care of boosting the indoor insect population. Gross.

Don’t be alarmed if your houseplants drop leaves when they move indoors. They are adjusting to lower light. Of course, you want to put them in the brightest window you have.

You’ll also notice their growth will have slowed, so houseplants will not need fertilizer or as much water as they did when actively growing.

I ripped out my tomato plants a few weeks ago. Because tomato plants are susceptible to several diseases, I put them in the trash rather than the compost heap. The plants were still producing, but had slowed down and they looked bad. I harvested all the tomatoes I could, including green ones, which are turning color on the back porch. The porch has whiffs of cilantro, too, because the brown marmorated stink bugs, which smell like the herb, have taken up residence there. Double gross.

I tried to grow kallettes this year, sowing the seeds for the mid-season plant that is a cross of Brussels sprouts and kale. I got nothing, except really nice foliage, and it’s October, way past mid season, so I pulled them out. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to try this new super food.

It’s not too late to plant garlic and shallots for harvest next season. You can also sow several crops of micro greens, those trendy lettuces, herbs and vegetables that are harvested when they are 1-3 inches. Baby greens are harvested at about 4-5 inches tall.

You can also grow micro greens indoors in winter with very little effort. This is a great way to get some fresh savory bits to garnish vegetable and meat dishes, eggs and sandwiches.

Look for seed packets marked micro greens or individual plants you might like, such as beets, basil or kale. Sow seeds fairly thickly over moistened potting mix. Cover, and place in a bright area, but not in full sun. Mist water as needed. Once sprouted, remove the cover and harvest the greens when they are the size you want.

Meet a couple of hydrangeas that bloom reliably

'Haas Halo' Hydrangea arborescens. Photo courtesy Plants Nouveau

‘Haas Halo’ Hydrangea arborescens. Photo courtesy Plants Nouveau

The most frequent question about hydrangeas is why don’t they bloom.

Breeders have boosted the reliably blooming types by at least two in the last couple of years, and these hardy hydrangeas have their roots in native species.

Most gardeners already know about ‘Annabelle’, a native hydrangea (H. arborescens), which has large, white, mop top flowers. Invincibelle Spirit was the first pink-blooming ‘Annabelle’ type, introduced in 2010 by Proven Winners/ColorChoice plants. Although there was a lot of excitement about the breeding breakthrough, the enthusiasm waned once we planted it in the garden.

Invincibelle Spirit II is much improved over its predecessor. Photo courtesy Prove Winners/ColorChoice

Invincibelle Spirit II is much improved over its predecessor. Photo courtesy Prove Winners/ColorChoice

Invincibelle Spirit was wimpy, wimpy, wimpy the first three years and the color was more of a dirty pink rather than vibrant hue. Eventually it bulked up in the garden and improved its performance, color and length of bloom, especially if given a bit more sun than its shade-tolerant sister, ‘Annabelle’.

Enter Invincibelle Spirit II, a much-improved introduction of the pink-bloomer, which I got this spring to trial. The flowers are a larger, brighter pink, darker leaves and stronger stems. It has bloomed all summer sitting in the nursery pot, awaiting its forever home in my landscape. It is in the 3-4 foot tall and wide range. Proven Winners ColorChoice says eventually the original will be taken off of the market.

And, as with it predecessor, $1 from every plant sold will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Center. It will be available at garden centers in 2016.

Another reliable bloomer is ‘Haas Halo’, introduced by Plants Nouveau in 2011. This stunner has pure white, lace cap flowers that are 14 inches wide on sturdy, upright stems, even in withering heat.

'Haas Halo' Hydrangea arborescens has pure white, 14-inch wide flowers. Photo courtesy Plants Nouveau

‘Haas Halo’ Hydrangea arborescens has pure white, 14-inch wide flowers. Photo courtesy Plants Nouveau

I bought this hydrangea two years ago and am pleased to report it is a very vigorous plant that has continued to bloom throughout the summer, even without regular watering.

‘Haas Halo’ will be in the 4-5 foot tall and wide range at maturity, with glossy, blue-green foliage. It does best with morning sun, but can take it full on if given water periodically.

These hydrangeas bloom on current season growth, so they can be cut back however far you’d like in late winter or early spring and still produce gorgeous flowers in summer.

Trial plants will do what they want to do

Proven Winners’ Fireburst bidens took the heat and kept on blooming. Photo courtesy provenwinners.com

Proven Winners’ Fireburst bidens took the heat and kept on blooming. Photo courtesy provenwinners.com

Sometimes you get it right and sometimes, well, Mother Nature has her way.

This past spring, I was thrilled with the trial combos I got from Ball Horticulture Co., annuals selected for color, design and texture.

At the same time, I got ‘Campfire’ coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) from Ball, which I thought worked beautifully as the centerpiece for the combo pots.

The mid May planting of trial plants looks great with complimentary colors and textures. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The mid May planting of trial plants looks great with complimentary colors and textures. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Everything worked really well until the coleus got its growth spurt and completely engulfed its neighboring plants. Failure to believe the coleus would really get 30 inches tall like that plant tag said was a rookie move on my part. Plants are going to do what they were meant to do, big or small, upright or trailing, long-lasting blooms or fabulous foliage.

By the August, Campfire coleus had taken over the pots of trial plants. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

By the August, Campfire coleus had taken over the pots of trial plants. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If nothing else, there’s a lesson here about coleus. It is not our parents’ coleus, a plant prized for its foliage and tolerance of shady areas. Today’s coleus cultivars are big, bold, sun loving and slow to bloom. A lot of gardeners do not like the blue flower spikes on coleus and newer introductions have been bred to delay blooming.

Clearly, ‘Campfire’ coleus needed pots all to itself or it needed to be planted in the ground, where it would have created quite a display.

Another trial plant, marketed as Campfire Fireburst bidens (Bidens ‘KOIBID1346’) from Proven Winners, is spectacular. I’ve always thought bidens was kind of a wimpy plant, one that flagged when it got hot. This one, though, was quite heat tolerant. Fireburst has a trailing habit with orange-yellow, daisy-like flowers, a full inch wide. This was a strong bloomer, working well in a hanging basket, window box, pot or in the ground in a sunny spot.

Bidens is fairly cold tolerant, holding its own until a hard frost. Fireburst’s color works well in a fall planting, with yellow mums or blue asters, for example, and an orange pumpkin or gourds. It should be available at garden centers next year.

Annuals a best buy for season-long color, blooms

Four Tall Red Salvia annuals were planted about 2 inches apart to give the look of a single plant. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Four Tall Red Salvia annuals were planted about 2 inches apart to give the look of a single plant. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Annuals have always been billed as a lot of color for the coin, because their seasonal role is to bloom their heads off, set seed and die.

And, even though consumer interest has shifted to premium annuals – single plants in a 3- or 4-inch pot – there’s still incredible value in plain old bedding plants.

Bedding plants are the annuals sold in cell packs of three to eight plants in a tray or 36 to 48 plants in a flat. Sometimes bedding plants also are sold individually in 2-inch cells, usually 18 plants to a flat, called 1801s in grower parlance. A four-pack of a bedding annual will set you back $1.50 to $2. A premium annual may cost $5 or more per plant.

This summer, I’ve appreciated a bedding plant tagged Tall Red Salvia (S. splendens), which cost me $1.59 for four plants. I planted them in June in the new bed I created after a weedy mulberry tree was removed, resulting in a lot more sun in my yard.

I planted the salvias about 2 inches apart because I wanted the four plants to form the look of one plant, and it worked. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are happy, and so am I.

Because bedding plants are so affordable, you can buy a lot of them and fill quite a bit of space without great expense. I was reminded of this when I saw both sides of a long walkway lined with several dozen ‘Victoria Blue’ mealycup sage, another type of salvia (S. farinacea). Depending on where you buy it, a flat of bedding annuals costs $18 to $25 for 36 to 48 plants.

Neither of these salvias needs to be deadheaded or cut back. They are reasonably drought tolerate, pollinators like them, and they can be cut for indoor arrangements. The goldfinches are gorgeous swaying on the stalks of ‘Victoria Blue’, too. Indeed, these two salvias are best buys. Here are a few others.

Vinca, sometimes called Madagascar periwinkle, (Catharanthus roseus), comes in pinks, purples and white. Some have a contrasting eye, or center. A great for full sun to part shade. No deadheading needed.

For shade, we used to plant bedding impatiens (I. walleriana), but with impatiens downy mildew around, we’ve had to find substitutes. Bedding coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) works well in shade to part sun, and so does wax-leaf begonia (B. semperflorens), which can take full sun, too. For the best show, plant these bedding annuals no more than 4 inches apart to give the bed a full, dense look.

Fall-planted bulbs bridge the season from spring to summer

Spring Valley mix foxtail lilies and Allium christophii bridge the season from spring into summer. Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Spring Valley mix foxtail lilies and Allium christophii bridge the season from spring into summer. Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com

You know that gap between spring and summer, when there’s nothing blooming in the garden? It’s after the spring bulbs, columbine (Aquilegia) and Iris have bloomed but before coneflowers (Echinacea) and bee balm (Monarda) come on.

What’s missing are the bridge flowers, said Brent Heath, co-owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, who will be in town for several speaking engagements and a hands-on workshop.

Gardeners just are not as familiar with them as they are the big three, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, said Heath, who with his wife, Becky Heath, wrote Daffodils for American Gardens and Tulips for North American Gardens.

Most bulbs prefer it more dry than wet.

Bridge flowers at their best: white and purple Allium, white foxtail lilies, blue Dutch iris, Indian hyacinth, Dichelostemma (pink flowers), small, early lilies (Lilium) and ‘Starlight’ Triteleia (straw-colored flowers). Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Bridge flowers at their best: white and purple Allium, white foxtail lilies, blue Dutch iris, Indian hyacinth, Dichelostemma (pink flowers), small, early lilies (Lilium) and ‘Starlight’ Triteleia (straw-colored flowers). Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com 

“Most bulbs like to sleep in dry beds,” he said during a telephone interview. On his recommended list for fall planting: Allium, Calochortus, Camassia, Dichelostemma, Dracunculus, Dutch Iris, Eremurus, Nectaroscordum and Triteleia.

Plant these bulbs in full sun and well-drained soil. Many are hardy here, but some are not, so check a bulb’s hardiness. As with all bulbs, once the flowers are done, allow the foliage to turn yellow or brown before removing it. I have grown some of these and they do, indeed, bridge the season. They also are terrific cut flowers. Here are few of my favorite late-spring, early summer bulbs.

Foxtail lilies (Eremurus) get 3-4 feet tall with spikes of yellow, orange, white or pinkish flowers. Plant in full sun, hardy to USDA Zone 5. Foxtail lilies are good cut flowers.

Indian hyacinth (Camassia) is a North American native plant that has blue or white star-like flowers atop 30-inch tall plants. I have two patches of camassia and it’s gorgeous, but if the weather heat up, these start to look a little bedraggled pretty quickly. Plant in full sun. Camassia is fully hardy throughout Indiana.

Allium atropurpureum and A. giganteum show up just when you think the spring bulb show is over. These ornamental onions have tall stalks topped with balls of blooms. Hardy in Indiana, but grow them in full sun and well-drained soil.

Learn more

Heath will speak about companion plants for bulbs, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Ave. Fee is $5, limited seating. Sponsored by the Marion County and Garfield Park Master Gardeners.

Bulbs for Forcing Lecture and Workshop, 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, Lilly House, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road. Fee is $40 for members, $50, nonmembers. Sponsored by the IMA.

Bridge Flowers Lecture, 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, DeBoest Lecture Hall at the IMA. Free.

Garden spiders add color and drama to the landscape

A garden spider spins a silky tomb for a bumble bee. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A garden spider spins a silky tomb for a bumble bee. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This time of year, garden spiders spin their orbs in the landscape.

The yellow and black females are larger than the males, more colorful and usually more visible, especially this time of year. The females make the large webs, some up to two feet across, and the males spin smaller orbs around the fringes, each with a zigzag in the center.

The garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is native throughout the United States and is considered a beneficial insect.

The female garden spider is about one inch long, but is not harmful to humans. She hangs upside down on her web, spun between two plants in a sunny spot protected from wind. The male is narrower and may be brownish. It is about one-fourth to one-third inch long.

When bees, flies, butterflies and other insects become ensnared in the web, the spider shoots them full of venom and quickly wraps them into silky tombs. Some are stored for dinner later, but many are eaten as soon as they are encapsulated. Each day, the female garden spider eats the entire center section of the web and spins a new one. Speculation is she cleans out her pantry of bugs to make way for the new catch of the day.

Late summer is the annual mating and egg-laying season. So risky is his journey into her web that he frequently has a silken tether at his belly that allows him to drop to the ground if she says no. The males die after mating and sometimes make a meal for the female.

She lays her eggs and wraps them into round bundles of silk, with the last layer a brownish color for better camouflage. She hangs the egg sacs on the web where she can guard them against predators. She usually dies by the first frost.

Eventually, the eggs hatch, but stay in their cocoon until spring when they emerge and go their way.

The Fairfax County (Va.) Public School’s Web site has more lifecycle details and other interesting tidbits about this spider.

Rose rosette disease is easily spread and fatal

Roses infested with rose rosette disease take on a pinkish-red cast, develop more thorns than normal and form witch’s broom. Photo courtesy Linda Kimmel

Roses infested with rose rosette disease take on a pinkish-red cast, develop more thorns than normal and form witch’s broom. Photo courtesy Linda Kimmel

There’s a rose disease showing up in Indiana and it’s deadly. Called rose rosette disease, sometimes referred to as RRD, is a killer, affecting the $400 million domestic rose production industry.

The disease was first detected in 1941 in western states, and had spread to Tennessee by 1994, affecting primarily multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora or R. poliantha), which are considered an invasive species. A wingless mite, 1/200 of an inch long, feeds on an infected rose, gets blown by wind to our gardens, bites our roses and wham, infected plants.

“My roses became infected at the end of last year,” reports reader S.M. “I cut them off and hoped they would be fine this spring. Had no idea what was causing the leaves to turn dark red then brown, and the tip of the buds to twist, curl and become deformed. The entire bud area turns fiery red and stunted.”

That pretty much describes what people see on infested plants. The virus causes development of more thorns than usual and a clustering of branches, called witch’s broom.

“I live on the southern edge of Marion County, surrounded by farm fields and have RRD bad,” said Linda Kimmel, district director of the Illinois-Indiana Rose Society. “About eight to 10 percent of my roses get infected every year and have to be removed. Some rose growers who live in town or suburbs, not so much of a problem.”

Tom Creswell, director of Purdue University’s Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab, which tests for the virus, has seen only a handful of queries about the disease. Widespread in Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma, our planting habits contribute to the spread of the disease, he said.

“Planting large drifts of the same variety of rose, or just large drifts of any rose, in public spaces increases the risk, if the disease gets started,” Creswell said.

Unfortunately, rose rosette disease is fatal. There is no cure. Miticides do not work on the mite that spreads the virus. Remove and destroy roses as soon as you notice the disease. Once infested roses and their roots have been removed, you can replant roses.

Kimmel said research shows that Knock Outs are no more vulnerable than any other rose. It’s just that there are planted everywhere, from gas stations to road medians to our gardens. The virus can be dormant in roses for two years before symptoms appear.

Rose Show Sept. 26, 2015

La Quinta Inn & Suites South, 5120 Victory Drive (I-465 & Emerson south), Indianapolis. The Rose Show is open to the public at noon and free. Registration is $40 for the full event, which includes lunch and programs by Stephen Scanniello, curator of Rockefeller Rose Garden in New York, and  Bruce Monroe of Delaware, who will give a program on rose photography and how to improve our rose photos.

Ball takes the guess work out of container planting

Eye Caramba, Photo courtesy Ball Horticulture

Eye Caramba, Photo courtesy Ball Horticulture

A common dilemma among some gardeners is trying to figure out what plants go with which ones and what colors look good together, especially combos for pots.

Besides a container of colorful flowers and interesting textures, you want the plants to play nice together and require the same light and water requirements. When we buy hanging baskets and combo pots in the garden centers, those concerns are usually reduced.

Ball Horticulture Co., has developed Mix Masters, a program that takes the guesswork out of combining plants in containers. Marketed as Drop ’N Bloom in Home Depot and Ready Refill at Lowes, Ball premixes the combos so all you have to do is plop them in the pot.

Playdate. Photo courtesy Ball Horticulture

Playdate. Photo courtesy Ball Horticulture

“One of the themes driving (our) breeding efforts is reaching the modern gardener,” said Katie Rotella, a marketing communicator at Ball Horticultural Co.

“And we’ve found that today’s gardener is oftentimes a decorator, not necessarily a digger.

“So, by bringing pre-mixes to the industry, we’re reaching new gardeners who love to add flowers to their outdoor living spaces, but may shop by color, and not really by specific plant variety,” she said.

This year, Ball sent me three combos to trial and they all did really well. These combos will not be available until next year.

Playdate has Cabaret Deep Yellow, Rose and Purple calibrachoas, sometimes called million bells.

Sweet Escape has Sun Spun Yellow petunia, Aztec Burgundy Wink verbena and Cabaret Light Pink calibrachoa.

Eye Caramba has Flash Mob Bluerific petunia, Aztec Violet Wink verbena and Cabaret White petunia, which is my favorite.

Sweet Escape. Photo courtesy Ball Horticulture

Sweet Escape. Photo courtesy Ball Horticulture

Most of the plants have been trialed throughout the country, so their success is all but assured.

“These new programs at Home Depot and Lowe’s put much of the growing into the hands of the consumer, however that initial roadblock of ‘what works with what’ is removed, since the combos are proven to perform,” Rotella said.

All-America Selections on display at demonstration garden

A giant swallowtail gathers nectar on Interspecific Jolt Pink dianthus in the All-America Selections Demonstration Garden at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A giant swallowtail gathers nectar on Interspecific Jolt Pink dianthus in the All-America Selections Demonstration Garden at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I hope you get a chance to visit the All-America Selections Demonstration Garden at the Indiana State Fair, which runs through Aug. 23.

Despite the record rainfall, the plants look pretty good, even the tomatoes and peppers, which have not done well in many gardens this year because of how wet everything has been.

All-America Selections are award-winning plants that have been grown in trial gardens throughout the United States and judged to be superior to similar ones on the market. They may produce more fruit with improved taste, grow larger flowers, have a better form, be resistant to disease or insects, or exhibit other desirable attributes.

Volunteers tend the Purdue Extension Marion County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, which features All-America Selections from several years along with 2015 winners. It’s a great opportunity to view some of the best selections for you try. Here’s a sampler:

Bounce Pink Flame New Guinea impatiens (I. hybrida ‘Balboufink’) has a spreading habit that is similar to bedding impatiens (I. walleriana), which suffers from impatiens downy mildew, a deadly fungus disease. Shade tolerant New Guineas are resistant to this disease.

Bounce Pink Flame New Guinea impatiens has a similar growth habit as bedding impatiens. Photo courtesy All-America Selections

Bounce Pink Flame New Guinea impatiens has a similar growth habit as bedding impatiens. Photo courtesy All-America Selections

If you’ve grown annual dianthus, you know that it frequently fades when it gets hot. Interspecific Jolt Pink Dianthus is extremely heat tolerant and does well in pots or as a bedding plant in sun.

Tidal Wave Red Velour Petunia. Photo courtesy All-America Selections and Park Seed

Tidal Wave Red Velour Petunia. Photo courtesy All-America Selections and Park Seed

Breeders keep improving the Wave brand of petunias, both in color and form, and Tidal Wave Red Velour (Petunia x hybrida) is a huge jump forward. True to its name, it has deep red, velour-like textured flowers that cover the ground. The color does not fade and the plants are pretty much carefree in a sunny spot.

Dolce Fresca basil (Ocimum basilicum) has lovely ornamental value and great taste. It does well in the ground or in a container in a sunny spot. It quickly recovers after harvesting the leaves for pesto or other dishes.

Pretty N Sweet ornamental pepper that tastes as good as it looks. Photo courtesy Park Seed and All-America Selections

Pretty N Sweet ornamental pepper that tastes as good as it looks. Photo courtesy Park Seed and All-America Selections

Pretty N Sweet pepper (Capsicum annumm) is an apt name for this attractive and edible pepper. Although it may look like a hot pepper, it isn’t. It only gets about 18 inches tall, but is very prolific, making it a perfect pick for a container in full sun.

The demonstration garden in on the north side of the fairgrounds, near the Department of Natural Resources building. It is open to the public throughout the growing season. Learn more at on the garden’s Facebook page.