Daffodils and other spring bulbs that emerge early usually don't need any special care. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
With Indiana’s cold-one-day hot-the-next weather, many spring blooming bulbs have broken ground early.
Bulbs planted close to sidewalks, driveways and foundations likely are already up several inches. The ground around these bulbs stays a bit warmer than soil in garden beds because the adjacent hardscape absorbs and retains heat.
Bulbs buried under leaves in a sunny location also may be emerging from the ground because the debris keeps the soil bit warmer.
Many gardeners worry about these early risers and wonder if they should do anything to protect them. Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything.
It’s possible the leaves may be a bit damaged by a severe cold snap, but the flowers are still tucked under ground.
Once the flowers emerge and there’s below freezing temperature scare, you can cover the buds with cloth or paper. If you use plastic, be sure to tent it so that it does not touch the plants.
Personally, I practice tough love and don’t cover anything.
Between now and mid-March is a good time to prune trees and shrubs, if needed. Do not prune spring-blooming shrubs now. Rather, wait until after they bloom.
Some shrubs benefit from a severe pruning every spring, whacking them back to just a few inches above the base of the plant. Cutting back these shrubs results in strong new growth, tidy plants and lots of flowers.
- Japanese spirea (Spiraea x brumalda, S. japonica).
- ‘Annabelle’, Invincibelle Spirit, Bella Anna and other smooth-leaf hydrangeas (H. arborescens).
- Endless Summer, Cityline, Forever and Ever and other reblooming hydrangeas (H. macrophylla). Other big leaf hydrangeas should not be cut back in spring, but rather in summer, shortly after they bloom.
- Russian sage (Perovskia).
- Blue mist spirea (Caryopteris).
- Knock Out and other shrub roses (Rosa rugosa).
- Butterfly bush (Buddleia).
- Red- and yellow-twig dogwoods (Cornus sericea). The best color comes from new branches.
- Beautyberry (Callicarpa).
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 email@example.com, 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 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.
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.
‘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.
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 (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.
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.
Here’s HortusScope for January 2013, a checklist of garden and nature related events compiled as a public service by Wendy Ford of Landscape Fancies. Please click on the link below to download your copy.
HortusScope January 2013
A bumble bee burrows in to pollinate a tomato flower. © iStockphoto
Happy New Year! Hope is at the center of the gardener’s soul. We hope the seeds will sprout. We hope the plant will bloom. We hope for tasty tomatoes. We hope for better weather.
Appreciate all that Mother Nature offers and build an understanding of how the environment and ecosystem work.
Patience is what we learn from Mother Nature. You just can’t hurry Mother Nature and you can’t control the weather.
Plant something new. “I always tell people to try at least one new plant every year. There’s too much out there not to experiment,” says Irvin Etienne, horticulture display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “If you are doing 10 or 15 containers, then you should do more than one in new plants. If you have two, three or four, then do one.”
Yesterday is yesterday. Don’t beat yourself up because a plant died.
Never ever apply an insecticide, fungicide or herbicide unless you know exactly what you are treating. Using an insecticide to control a fungus is a waste of money, product and bad for the environment.
Examine attitudes about bugs. They are not all bad. In fact, most of them are good. We have them to thank for the tomatoes, squash, apples and most of the other foods we eat. Bugs also are a prime food source for birds. No bugs no birds.
Watch what happens in the landscape. An occasional walk through the yard can be quite revealing.
Yes! You can grow that. Give it a try. On the 4th of every month, bloggers post how-tos and encouragement at youcangrowthat.com
Educate others about the joys of gardening and share your expertise.
Ability comes with practice, honed by our garden successes and failures.
Respect and nurture Mother Nature in your garden. And, hope for the best in 2013.
Finding the Christmas pickle is considered an American holiday tradition. © iStockphoto/Grabill Creative
Decorating the home with holiday greenery is an ancient tradition. A tribe of Germans, called Teutons, brought cut conifers indoors along with other sacrifices as part of a winter ritual.
The more modern version of a Christmas tree is credited to this German tradition, where over time there were fewer sacrifices and more decorating. Christmas trees in the 18th century were decorated with candles, apples and nuts.
Then there’s the Christmas pickle. I’ve seen pickle ornaments, but until recently, had not heard about the tradition, thought to be totally American. The pickle ornament is hidden in the tree and the person who finds it receives a reward.
Some sources suggest the tradition started with Woolworth as a way to market glass pickle ornaments imported from Germany in the 1890s. Another story tells of a Civil War soldier who begged for and received a pickle when starving in prison at Christmas time. Convinced the pickle saved his life, when the soldier returned home, each year he hid a pickle the Christmas tree.
Fashion forward gardeners
Without even doing anything, most gardeners are ahead of the 2013 color fashion curve. Earlier this month, emerald green was named the 2013 Color of the Year by Pantone, an arbiter of all things color.
Emerald green pretty much describes the color of lots of plants in the garden. One even has it as its name: Emerald Green arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’), a popular shrub.
“Green is the most abundant hue in nature. The human eye sees more green than any other color in the spectrum,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, in a news release.
“As it has throughout history, multifaceted emerald continues to sparkle and fascinate. Symbolically, emerald brings a sense of clarity, renewal and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s complex world. This powerful and universally appealing tone translates easily to both fashion and home interiors.”
Gardeners already know how the color works in the landscape, thank you very much.
Ikebana bowls. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Terrariums big and small, ornaments and plant tags that actually work top our list of holiday gifts for the gardeners in your life. Here are our suggestions:
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse
Air plant terrarium. Photo courtesy IMA Greenhouse.
Ornaments are seasonal memory jogs, reminding us of the gift giver or a special event. The mouth-blown, hand-painted glass ornaments from Europe are stunning, especially the hummingbird ($41) and watering can ($35.90). Complete the package with a miniature bonsai tree ($19) and “Bonsai Survival Manual” by Colvin Lewis ($22.95). Other bird ornaments range $5.99 to $11.25.
Mouth blown glass ornaments and bonsai. Photo courtesy IMA Greenhouse.
For lofty trendsetters, “air plants are HOT this year,” says Lynne Steinhour Habig, greenhouse shop coordinator. The mini-glass terrarium is the perfect vessel for keeping the plant airborne ($17, plus $3.75 for the plant). There also is a table model terrarium.
Dammann’s Lawn, Garden & Landscape Centers
Terrariums planted with succulents. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Dammann’s south and west stores offer pre-made or made-to-order terrariums or miniature gardens in glass bowls, domes and enclosed cases for $24.99 on up. Add a red or gold ribbon or place a small ornament in the terrarium for a festive look and place on an end table, buffet or coffee table. Change the decoration for the season.
Artifacts Gallery, Broad Ripple
Indianapolis artist Sean Gray creates beautiful ikebana ceramic bowls and plants them with lucky bamboo ($40). Gray was born with autism and until he took up art, tended to be destructive. “Through my art, this has changed,” he says in his bio. He took a sculpture class at Westfield High School. “In this class, I found that I like working with my hands. I especially like working with clay.”
In 2003, Gray started studying ceramics at the Indianapolis Art Center and in 2005, was named Best in the Beginners’ Division. “I find that creating art gives me a sense of purpose and control over my life and now I have a business, Seanware,” Gray says.
Ginkgo jewelry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Michael Michaud picks up leaves on his world treks and turns the pieces of flora into cast works of art made in the United States. The process in bronze, sterling silver or gold captures each natural detail of the leaf for Silver Seasons Jewelry. Some pieces have genuine stones and pearls. In his Gingko Leaf Jewelry Collection is a bracelet $82; small pin, $67; large pin, $88.
CobraHead BioMarker Plant Markers
Gardeners know that plant tags that won’t fade, break or disintegrate are to die for. “We came across a truly weatherproof label that was printable with a laser printer, or writable with a permanent marker,” says Noel Valdes, owner of CobraHead, known best for its weeder.
BioMarkers. Photo courtesy Cobrahead
The plastic plant markers (15 for $29.95), made of sturdy plastic in light stone, medium brown and dark green, have withstood several years of testing in all kinds of weather, from Iowa to Texas. BioMarkers won a 2012 Green Thumb Award from an independent panel of garden writers and editors in conjunction with the Direct Gardening Association. Winning products are recognized for their uniqueness, technological innovation, ability to solve a gardening problem or provide a gardening opportunity.
“What I like about these plant labels is they are bigger, so you can read what’s written on them without having to bend down and pull out the labels. Plus, the natural colors blend in with the garden,” says Carol Michel, a south side Indianapolis gardener whose award-winning blog is May Dreams Gardens.
World’s Coolest Rain Gauge
The World’s Coolest Rain Gauge has a solid copper water-collecting flute that fits in a rust-resistant, powder-coated stand. Inside the flute is an unbreakable blue polycarbonate measuring tube that floats up to show how much rain has fallen. When there’s no rain, the tube falls back into the flute and the gauge turns into a lovely garden ornament.
World's Coolest Rain Gauge. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
“I love this rain gauge because I can leave it out all winter. It’s great not to worry that it will crack when it freezes, and it’s attractive,” says author C.L. Fornari of Massachusetts, who blogs at wholelifegardening.com
This rain gauge is so cool, I bought one for myself for Christmas from Wildbirds Unlimited for $47. It also is available at the World’s Coolest Rain Gauge, where you can watch a video about the device.
Gold Leaf Gloves
Fit for royalty, Gold Leaf Gloves have been endorsed by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society and are used by gardeners at Buckingham Palace. Gold Leaf Gloves are made of water-resistant deerskin leather, Lycra, nylon, foam VELCRO and other high quality materials. The gloves start out snug, but as you wear them they stretch and conform to the contours of your hand like a custom-tailored glove. Available in men’s and women’s sizes at Gardeners Supply Company. Gold Leaf Soft Touch is $38.95 and Tough Touch, $49.95.
Gold Leaf Tough Touch Gloves. Photo courtesy Gardeners Supply Co.
Gold Leaf Soft Touch gloves. Photo courtesy Gardeners Supply Co.