A Garden Haven for Pollinators

There has been an increasing amount of research and information in recent years about the increasing environmental pressure on nature's pollinators. Michigan, with its significant agricultural industry, is on the forefront of research to find solutions. You might be surprised to know that even a small suburban landscape can provide significant contributions to habitat for native pollinators. Here are seven ways to make your garden a haven for native pollinators, as provided by the US Department of Agriculture

  1. Use pollinator-friendly plants in your landscape. Shrubs and trees such as dogwood, blueberry, cherry, plum, willow, and poplar provide pollen, nectar, or both, early in spring, when food is scarce.
  2. Choose a mixture of plants for spring, summer, and fall. Different flower colors, shapes, and scents will attract a wide variety of pollinators. If you have limited space, you can plant flowers in containers on a patio, balcony, and even window boxes.
  3. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape, or incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly.
  4. Accept some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.
  5. Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches.
  6. Leave dead tree trunks, also called “snags,” in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles.
  7. Support land conservation in your community by helping to create and maintain community gardens and green spaces to ensure that pollinators have appropriate habitat.

For an easy, fun project with kids, consider making a simple 'Bee Box' or 'Bee Hotel'! With a 12" block of untreated 4"X4" and a drill with a couple different diameter bits, you can make a perfect home for mason and other native bees. You can find instructions, a downloadable .pdf and even a YouTube video from the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Once you are done with construction, mount the bee block on a protected south facing wall, tree or fence. After that, just a little annual care is needed to keep your small community of bees safe and happy in their new home. If you build this or another bee house (you can find lots of ideas online!), be sure to let me know with a photo. I'd love to see our community come together to support our pollinators!

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    A Unique Gift for a Special Mom

    You have given a special ‘mom’ in your life flowers, a spa visit, hugs and kisses, and now you are out of ideas. How about a Gift Certificate from A Southern Gardener?

    Would mom enjoy a one-on-one garden consultation with me? I love doing consultations (or what I like to think of as garden visits!) with gardeners and their gardens. Sometimes it is help to address a vexing problem like unhappy plants or how to address pests. Often, it is more about the proud gardener telling me about the space and their dreams for it than it is for me to offer ideas and suggestions.    

    Our Gift Certificates aren’t just for consultations, though! They can be applied to a beautiful new container garden. Maybe you have found a unique container that is perfect for mom and want to gift it with a certificate to have it planted.

    Or maybe there is a new garden that she would love to do.It can be a major change or just a renovation. Gift Certificates can be a perfect gift, applied to creating a custom design or more. We can create a specific one for any amount you choose.

    Is there a special event coming up this year and mom would like the yard spruced up? Make her life a little easier with a Gift Certificate towards a garden maintenance visit, another thoughtful way to help prepare for that graduation party or bridal shower in the back yard.

    If there is a special ‘mom’ (or grand-mom or aunt or sister!) in your life who is nurturing a family and a garden, planning an event, or deserves a blooming surprise, think about giving a customized Gift Certificate from A Southern Gardener! Call (313-881-2223) or email (Lynda@asoutherngardener.com) our office today!

    Saving the Majestic Monarch

    One of nature's most incredible displays is the annual migration of the monarch butterfly. Starting in September and October, eastern/northeastern populations migrate from southern Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in central Mexico where they arrive around November. They start the return trip in March, arriving around July. No individual butterfly completes the entire round trip; female monarchs lay eggs for the next generation during the northward migration with at least five generations involved in the annual cycle.

    However, with the loss of food sources and habitat, the monarch butterfly is at risk, with the number of migrating monarchs sinking to the lowest recorded population level in 2013–14, resulting in an imminent risk of failed migration. There is now a multi-national effort, from Canada to Mexico, to help the monarch recover, and we can help here in Michigan, right in our own gardens.

    Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and adult monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. With shifting land management practices, we have lost much milkweed from the landscape. Please plant milkweed to support monarch populations! Planting milkweed is a great way to help other pollinators too, as the plants provide valuable nectar resources to a diverse population of bees and other butterflies.

    Adult monarchs will drink the nectar of many flowers in addition to milkweed, in fact, they need a variety or sources to nourish them throughout the growing season. Including a variety on native flowering species with different bloom times in your landscape will provide monarch the the food they need to reproduce in the spring and summer and to then migrate in the fall. Offering a wide variety of native nectar plants will attract monarchs and other butterflies and pollinators to you yard all season long!

    You can find out more about the efforts to help the monarchs, where to buy milkweed seeds and growing instructions through many non-profit organizations. Please visit the Save Our Monarchs Foundation, Monarch Watch, or the Michigan State Extension Service to find out how you can help!

    Pruning for a Colorful Future

    Colored bark shrubs, like red and yellow twig dogwood (Cornus) bring bright color to our winter landscapes. But the best showing by these ornamental shrubs comes with a late winter or early spring pruning. Here are some tips to help you prune these shrubs now to get the best impact next winter!

    Pruning now is easiest as the difference between old branches and new is more obvious. As the spring moves on and the shrubs leaf out, the bark becomes darker on all the stems, changing to a brown or red brown.

    Look your colorful dogwoods over now, pruning back grey, brown or black limbs now. These are the oldest parts of the shrub and will no longer give you the bright color you want next winter. Prune the oldest branches right to the base, only leaving 6-12”. If the shrubs have been neglected for a long time, limit the pruning to only 1/3 of the whole plant, so it can successfully regenerate. Stagger you pruning all around the shrub so new growth is balanced all around the plant. Using this process, the plant will be entirely rejuvenated in three years, be easier to maintain, and give you a colorful addition to your winter garden.

    For more detail, and a bit of humor, read Winter Pruning: The Rantings & Ravings of a Pruning Freak, posted by the Chicago Botanic Garden

    Pruning: The Basics

    Spring is definitely on its way and one of the first projects in the garden is pruning of ornamental trees and shrubs. Here are some basic suggestions to make the job easier and productive.

    1.       Have the proper tools for the jobs. This means an assortment of tools, including hand pruners, loppers, hand saw, and if you are pruning taller trees, as pole pruner.

    2.       Have your tools cleaned and sharpened before you begin! Trust me, this makes the job much easier on you and your plants!

    3.       Ask yourself “Why am I thinking of pruning this plant?” Is it really too big for the space? Is it crowding other plants? Make sure you are pruning for the right reasons.

    4.       Look at the natural shape of the plant and prune to maintain that habit. Don’t try to make that weeping cherry something it is not!

    5.       Finally, DON’T prune your spring bloomers right now. Leave those lilacs, forsythia, rhododendrons, fragrant viburnums and other spring bloomers alone until AFTER they bloom.

    You will make it easier on yourself if you allow your trees and shrubs to grow and develop naturally – you won’t have to prune as often and you will have more time to enjoy the beauty of these residents of your gardens. And if you are still unsure, just let me know any questions you have – I am always happy to help!

    Early Spring in the Garden

    I know you are all itching to get into your gardens and clean up the beds and prune your trees and shrubs. But, hold on a minute! Did you know you do not want to be in the beds when they are wet from melting snow and spring rains?

    By walking and working in a wet garden bed, you compact the soil tightly around the very plants you want to wake up and sprout. Compacted soil means compacted roots, roots that are just beginning to extend after a long winter. And if the roots cannot easily grow, neither will your plants. Your spring bulbs and perennials need the soft spring soils to make their return!

    If you must work in the garden when the soil is wet, or even just damp, use a small sheet of plywood (3/4" thick) or a wide board (2"x12") to walk and stand on. This will spread the weight avoiding compacting the soil around your trees, shrubs and perennials.

    Who's Peeking Out In The Garden?

    Two of my favorite little friends are starting to peek out in my garden – Snow Drops and Winter Aconite. These are the first of the spring blooming bulbs to appear at the end of winter, the signal that spring is on the way! If you don’t have any of these beauties in your garden yet, here are some tips.

    I like to look around my garden at just this time of year to pick out the next place to plant these little gems.  Look around your pathways and garden walkways right now, even take some pictures or mark some areas for the future. They can even be planted in the lawn, if you don’t treat the lawn with weed killer.

    The bulbs are so tiny that you can easily plant them in among other bulbs or perennials. And, they are very tiny plants, so you will want to plant quite a few to make a visual impact. The nice thing is, though, that they happily spread over the years! As they grow and multiply, you can also divide the bulbs after they are done blooming, called ‘planting in the green’. Just dig up a patch, separate the bulbs from one another and replant in more locations.

    Every garden deserves some of these early heralds of spring!

    Darn It...I Forgot My Bulbs!

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    Forcing spring bulbs indoor in the depths of winter is a great pick me up when the temperatures are so cold. But, if you didn’t  plan ahead and buy your bulbs when they were available (early fall, September and October), you have the option to pick up blooming forced bulbs at many garden centers and grocery stores right now. Those forced bulbs will come in plain plastic pots which can be dropped into many larger containers. However, you can also have some fun by taking them out of the pot and putting them into some of your own smaller containers. If you want to spread those purchased blooming bulbs around the house, I have a great suggestion!

    Gather some pretty smaller containers from your collectibles. Vases, pots, cups, bowls, and any small pretty container you love. Spread a couple sheets of newspaper out to collect the soil from the potted bulbs as you carefully remove them from their pot. If there are several bulbs in the same pot, carefully disengage each bulbs’ roots from their friends and rinse carefully under gently running water, working as much soil as possible from the roots and bulb.

    Once the bulbs are cleaned, place them into your little containers, holding them up from the bottom about one inch as you pour in a base of small coarse pebbles, glass beads or marbles. Add water just to the base of the bulb and VOILA! You have pretty blooming bulbs to place around your home!

    How Are Your Houseplants Doing This Winter?

    Indoor plants are a lovely addition to any home and one way we gardeners can feed our gardening addiction during the winter months. But their needs change with the seasons, just like our outdoor landscaping. When was the last time you really looked over your houseplants?

    Proper watering is especially important in the winter. The heat is going and our homes are much drier, even if we have humidifiers. The trick is to not over or under water! Most houseplants are dormant now, and simply not using much water. A good 95% detest wet soil in winter, and should be allowed to dry out completely between watering. (The big exceptions to this rule of thumb are lemon, orange, grapefruit, other potted citrus; they REQUIRE a moist soil; do not let these few types dry out.) For smaller potted plants, the weight of the pot is the best way to judge; pick up your pots. If they feel very light, place them in a few inches of water in a sink or tub and allow them to soak it up through their drain holes until the pot feels heavy. Then let them drain in the dish rack, put them back in place and don't water again until the plant feels light once more. For those great big pots, use a long bamboo skewer. Drive it into the soil, then pull it out and check it for moistness. If the skewer is damp, no need to water - sort of like test a cake!

    Your plants also need humidity in the air around them, more than a home humidifier can provide. Place all of your houseplant in a slightly larger plant tray with a layer of pebbles in the bottom. Fill with water - this will evaporate into the air around your plants providing much needed additional humidity.

    Also very important during the winter is to NOT FEED your houseplants! Remember, they are dormant this time of year. They won’t be looking for any nutrition until the first of March, so no feeding!

    If your plants are looking long, lanky or weak (tempting you to feed them!), it is most likely due to not enough sunlight. Don’t prune them back now; rather move them into a south or southwest window. Try to give them as much daylight as possible.

    Come the beginning of March your houseplants will begin to come out of their dormancy. The sun is stronger and longer, waking everyone up! This is the time for the first feeding and pruning of the year. Want more houseplant tips? Check out Lisa Steinkopf's suggestions at The Houseplant Guru.

    Inspirations for Michigan Gardeners!

    I love lots of garden publications, blogs and websites. I read about and have visited gardens all over the globe. But I live and garden here in southeast Michigan. So, there are some Michigan specific publications that I love and use that I want to share with you.

    We are lucky here in Michigan – we have one of the finest agricultural universities in the US, Michigan State University. The MSU Extension Service “helps people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses.” I have used their services to get information on new plants and trees, the status of pests and diseases affecting our plant life, and as a resource for continuing education. Their website is full of great research and information and is free. Sign up for their Lawn & Garden E-Newsletter!

    I recently ran across a new print publication, Michigan Gardening, published by State-by-State Publications. Published bi-monthly, the magazine breaks the state down by region or zone, providing relevant information to gardeners in our state’s widely varying climate zones (might not want to plant the same thing in Iron Mountain that we can plant here in Detroit). Their most recent issue featured an article and photograph layout about one of Grosse Pointe’s most beautiful gardens in the article “Victoria’s Garden”. You can find information of subscribing or even read selected articles by visiting

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    Finally, for the best price (FREE!), look for copies of Michigan Gardening at any of your local nurseries and garden centers. One of my favorite features is their Map of Michigan Nurseries. I tuck a copy away in my glove box and pull it out when I am making a road trip, just to see what nurseries or garden centers might be in the area. They also have a website where articles are available and even a Calendar of Garden Events with great demonstrations and talks submitted by garden clubs and nurseries. You can find great ways to spend a winter afternoon planning for the coming Michigan spring!

    Michigan is a great place to garden and grow and these resources are just for us!

    MY Favorite Garden Blogs

    Of course, I am thrilled that you read and enjoy my blog here at A Southern Gardener. But, there are so many more online resources for information and ideas about plants and gardening and gardens. I enjoy looking up and reviewing new websites and blogs as I come across them. As you are relaxing this holiday season, if you find yourself with some quiet time to fill, I urge you to check out some of MY favorite garden blogs.

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    First on my list is Gardenista. More than just a blog, this site is full of DIY ideas, great places to shop, tools and tips, destinations to plan in the next year. The site can seem overwhelming, but it is actually very well organized. And new things are posted all the time, and I mean all the time, throughout the day! This website alone will keep you engaged for hours.

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    Another website on my ‘Do Not Miss’ list is Dirt Simple, a blog site by Deborah Silver, a landscape and garden designer whose firm, Deborah Silver and Co Inc., opened its doors here in the Metro Detroit area in 1986. Then, she opened Detroit Garden Works, a retail store in Sylvan Lake devoted to fine and unusual garden ornament and specialty plants, in 1996. She has been writing this journal style blog since April of 2009 and you can access all of her writings on the blog page.

    Another favorite resource is Garden Professors (you can also find them on Facebook). This is also a blog that has been around since 2009, featuring articles from multiple authors. The site is an informative website about the ‘science’ of gardening and the search tool is simple and straight forward. Their tag line is 'Advancing the science of gardening and other stuff since 2009', so don't feel it will be 'too technical' to read. It is packed full of valuable information and lovely photos.

    If you have a few moments this holiday season, look over these great websites, sign up for their newsletters or follow them on Facebook. You will have lots of inspiration come your way as we wait for the arrival of spring.

    Happy New Year from all of us at A Southern Gardener!

    Moross Greenway Update!

    Ground has broken! If you drive down Moross Road towards I-94, you can see much has been accomplished this fall.

    Starting several weeks ago, Backer Landscaping laid out the gardens, creating the new beds in the islands of Moross Road from Mack Avenue to I-94. The existing soil was supplemented and a temporary water efficient drip irrigation system was installed. Once the plantings are established, approximately 3-5 years, it will be turned off.

    The key goal for the design was to plant low maintenance plants able to become established and thrive in the harsh environment that is Moross Road. In addition to perennial grasses Miscanthus and Pennisetum planted this month, there are wonderful varieties of trees and shrubs that have also been planted:

    7 Clethra, 11 Deutzia, 41 Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, 15 Viburnum ‘Carlesii’, 10 Viburnum Doublefile, 27 Aronia, 27 Red Twig Dogwood, 9 Fothergilla, 22 Witch Hazel, 49 Hydrangea Oakleaf, 50 Juniper ‘Broadmoor’, 15 Kerria, 41 Gro-Lo Sumac, 74 Knock Out Roses, 12 Spirea ‘Shirobana and 40 Hakuro Nishiki Dappled Willow

    There is variety of size and color, spring blooms and fall colors, and striking winter interest represented. There is even one of my favorites, the February blooming Witch Hazel. And the project isn’t done yet. Come this spring will be perennials in addition to the perennial grasses planted this fall.

    The Moross Greenway Project was formed over five years ago with the goal of raising $535,000 to beautify this major entryway to the Eastside. For more information or to donate, visit their website. For more details about this fall's progress, read this article from the Detroit Free Press.

    Gifts for the Gardener

    Do you have a gardener on your holiday gift list? Are you wondering what would be the perfect holiday gift for the ‘gardener who has everything’ or perhaps a gardening ‘newbie’? I’m delighted to provide a few suggestions to assist you!

    Books: I love my gardening books, some that I have had for many years and still refer back to. And there are always new publications to enjoy. Paging though a book with information and photography can be a favorite pastime for gardeners during the winter months. Here are my top suggestions this year:

    • ·         The Intimate Garden by Gordon Hayward & Mary Hayward
    • ·         Gardening With Water by James VanSweden
    • ·         Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs by Michael A. Dirr
    • ·         Making the Most of Shade by Larry Hodgson

    Tools: Who doesn’t love receiving a new gadget as a gift? There are tools that have been around for years that every gardener should have, and there are some new items available every year. Here are my ideas for gardeners:

    • ·         Classic Soil Knife (aka Hori-Hori knife)
    • ·         Felco Bypass Hand Pruners
    • ·         TubTrugs (in many sizes!)
    • ·         Gloves, so many types for different garden chores, but don’t skimp on quality!

    Magazines: I love my garden magazines. And a magazine subscription is a gift that keeps on giving! These are my favorites:

    • ·         Fine Gardening
    • ·         Organic Life
    • ·         Horticulture Magazine
    • ·         The American Gardener

     

    I hope these ideas make your holiday gift giving just a bit easier!

    Festive Decorating From Your Garden

    Some savvy green thumbs are discovering the same containers that hold vibrant annuals in summer can be put to brilliant use in the Yuletide season, creating winter arrangements that often last for several months. And for most gardeners, you may have all the materials you need right in your gardens!

    When considering your current containers, bear in mind the elements of winter. Not all containers will last winter weather extremes; plastic or terra-cotta pots will crack and shatter under the duress, so use wood, cast-iron, concrete, fiberglass or metal containers instead. But most important, do not use soil in the pot; it holds moisture and expands in freezing temperatures. Instead, use sand to anchor the pot and be sure to include drainage holes.

    For a winter container garden or window box, the same basic principles apply as during the warm months: Thriller, Spiller & Filler

    1. Thriller Using tall boughs from shrubs with interesting texture or color creates vertical interest. Red twig dogwood, ‘Harry Lauder’s Walker’, and Curly Willow are great choices. Or use branches with colorful berries such as hawthorn, crabapple, holly, winterberry, viburnum and bittersweet.
    2. Spillers They’re invaluable in containers, spilling over the sides, masking the hard edges and creating the illusion that the pot does not confine the arrangement. Evergreens are an excellent choice, especially chamaecyparis, Norway spruce and low growing or weeping juniper. Select branches that will drape loosely over the exterior of the container.
    3. Fillers. Finally, complete your arrangements with other fresh evergreens, both needled and broad-leafed. Look around your gardens for holly, taxus, boxwood, barberry, and any other evergreens you have. And think about including dried hydrangea blooms, rose hips, pine cones, even nuts and other natural items.

    Want some ‘bling’ in your container? Use metallic spray paint on the Curly Willow branches or those hydrangea flowers. With some weather appropriate spray adhesive and glitter, pine cones and nuts will sparkle. Add some colorful weather resistant ornaments for holiday cheer.

    If you choose to collect materials from your garden, do so with care so as not to damage your plants or make unsightly pruning cuts that will cause you regrets in the spring. If you want to purchase greenery for the arrangement, most garden centers will have them available, or go to your local Farmers Market. If you are in the Detroit area, stop by the Christ Church Grosse Pointe Greens Sale on Saturday, December 5th for fresh cut Michigan greens (information is available at http://www.christchurchgp.org/give/gifts-greens-home).

    Design your container with a nice blend of textures and colors, cutting boughs at different lengths to create a natural feel. The arrangement should be relatively large in relation to the pot, with a minimum of equal parts pot and boughs, but more properly with a 1/3-pot-to-2/3-bough ratio. If the proportions are less, the pot will dominate and undermine the overall effect of the arrangement.

    With a little time and a nice pair of garden clippers, chances are you have almost everything right in your own gardens to create a beautiful, welcoming winter arrangement in some of your favorite garden container.

    Happy holidays from all of us at A Southern Gardener!

    Don't Let Me Dry Out!

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    Believe it or not, the garden season is not over yet! This time of year, trees, shrubs and even perennials are preparing for the harsh winter season. They are actually strengthening their root systems. One of the most important things they need from now until the ground freezes is…WATER!

     

    Don’t worry if your irrigation system has been winterized, no need to turn it back on. Most trees and shrubs just need to get a good watering every 10 to 14 days, or an average 1” of rain per week. But if it has been a dry period, or a very dry autumn, you will want to give a hose soaking to your ornamental trees and shrubs. I suggest five (5) gallons of water per shrub or small tree.

     

    Pay special attention to the new plantings that you put in this past spring or summer. They are still getting settled into their new home – their roots will need regular watering until the ground freezes.

     

    Evergreens face the hardest time during the winter. They don’t get the break from drying cold and wind that deciduous plants have. Pay special attention to your broadleaf evergreens, such as rhododendron, holly, and pieris japonica. The broad leaf actually accelerates the drying impact of winter weather.

     

    This short article reinforces my very strong belief in fall watering: https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/watering/fall-watering#.Vj-lHU23Cn4.email.

     

    PS: The other thing your plants need this fall to support strong root growth is MULCH! Rake those leaves into your gardens instead of into the street!

    Care and Feeding of Garden Tools!

    You have spent the spring summer and fall trimming and planting, pruning and transplanting, edging and weeding. The gardens are all cleaned up and ready to rest over the winter. There is nothing left to do. That makes this the perfect time to inspect, clean, repair, sharpen, and maybe even replace your garden tools. It sounds about as much fun as watching paint dry, but if you do just a couple quick tasks this fall, you will be ready to enjoy working in your gardens next spring!

    First, hose off any clinging dirt thoroughly.  This may take some prying with a putty knife if you’ve let clay soil dry onto your tools (oops!) or may even require a bit of a soak in a bucket of soapy water.  For bladed tools like pruners and loppers, make sure dirt and plant debris is cleared from the pivot points.  Remove any dried on sap with rubbing alcohol and fine steel wool.  Allow to dry completely. 

    File off any chips or dents on the working edge of shovels, spades and trowels with a coarse file, then smooth with a honing tool or fine file (no need to put a knife-edge on them unless you’re worried about the zombie apocalypse, but a nice smooth edge will make digging chores much easier come spring!) Remove any rust with steel wool.  

    Sharpen bladed tools by following the original angle of the blade’s bevel, using a diamond honing tool.  If your blade is very dull or chipped you’ll need to start with a coarse honing tool, then progress to a medium and fine tool. If this is not a job you are comfortable taking on, check with your local garden center - many offer sharpening services in-house, or will have a recommendation. And not all tools can take more sharpening; be sure to replace worn blades as needed!

    If wood handles are rough, sand smooth, then rub with linseed oil (old socks are great for this chore!).  Keeping your wood-handled tools oiled in winter will keep them from splitting and cracking in the dry air of winter. 

     

    Finally, coat the metal parts of pruners, cultivators and shovels lightly with vegetable oil or WD-40 and store in a dry place.  In spring they’ll be clean, sharp and ready to go!

     

    Store the cleaned, repaired and sharpened tools in a dry place, a garage or storage shed will be just fine for the winter. With a little bit of work at the end of this growing season, your tools will be all ready to go when spring arrives!


    Beautiful Fall Containers!

    Another season in the garden is approaching! Fall in the garden is its own special season and this a great time to try something new in your garden containers. As your summer annuals are finishing, shop now for some beautiful and unusual plants to replace them with.

     

    Some of my favorite plants to use this time of year are ornamental cabbages or kales, and even swiss chard. The colors of greens, purples, pinks and bright whites of the cabbage and kale are so different from summer colors. Contrast those with the bright reds and yellows of the stalks of Rainbow swiss chard!

     

    A really FUN plant to add to your containers are ornamental peppers, like Black Pearl. And for a contrast of texture, think of sedums, like Angelina, or Pigs in a Blanket (honest, that's the name, look it up!) or an ornamental grass,  like one of my favorites, Toffee Twist. For a stunning centerpiece, consider an ornamental millet. You can even tuck in colorful gourds or small pumpkins for more colorful options.

    Finally, you don't need to have flowers in your fall containers with all of these options, but if you wish, pansies and violas are available now, along with fresh selections of calabrachoa, verbena, osteospermum, just to name a few. The time is now to shop for your fall containers!



    Easy Tips for Spring Bulb Planting

    You have combed the bulb catalogs. You have planned out your spring gardens. You have placed the orders or picked up bulbs from your local nursery. Your bulbs are here and ready to plant, and you want them to be spectacular next spring! Here are some tips to make sure your bulbs make it through the winter, safe and sound, ready to break ground when the thaws arrives.

    • Dig a hole or trench large enough for several bulbs. Bulbs are most effective when planted in bunches. In small gardens, groupings of 6 to 12 are effective; in large gardens, use groups of 12 to 24.
    • Bulb size dictates how deep to plant. As a rule, plant large bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and alliums about 8 to 12 inches deep; set smaller bulbs such as crocus and snowdrops 4 to 6 inches deep.
    • Space large bulbs 3 to 6 inches apart and small ones 1 to 2 inches apart. If you’re confused about which end is up – this can be the case with tubers such as windflowers – just place them sideways and they will right themselves!
    • If you have trouble with the local wildlife digging up your bulbs as an early winter snack, cover the planting with chicken wire to discourage digging.
    • Cover bulbs with soil and water generously. Later, when the ground cools you can apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to the surface, such as compost, well-rotted manure, shredded bark or chopped up leaves. This helps to prevent soil from drying out and to help keep temperatures stable through the winter.
    • At planting time, you don’t actually need to apply fertilizer, as the bulbs have already been fattened up for bloom. However, if you’d like the bulbs to thrive for a number of seasons, enrich the soil in the planting area with good organic compost or well-rotted cow manure worked into the soil when planting. You can also use a slow-release bulb food when planting, like BulbTone, or simple bone meal. This will give your bulbs a little snack when they wake up next spring!
    • And if you'd like a little more visual instruction, tune in to 'Pointes of Horticulture' on Comcast Cable Channel 5 & 915, AT&T Channel 99 and WOW Channel 18- next week's shows are all about planting your spring bulbs! Check the Grosse Pointe War Memorial website for dates and times: http://www.warmemorial.org/wmtv/wmtv-schedule/

    These simple steps will give your bulbs the best chance to come out of hiding in the spring with a colorful welcome to spring!


    Spring Bulbs...Shop Now!

    The bulb catalogs are filling up my mailbox right now and it is wonderful to see all of the new and different offerings. However, the heirloom bulbs are very special to me and I have found a great resource to order these beauties, and they are located right here in Michigan!

    Old House Gardens is my favorite source for heirloom bulbs. Proud to be America’s only mail-order source devoted entirely to heirloom bulbs, many available nowhere else, and an international leader in the preservation of these fabulous relics, they offer bulbs that have charmed gardeners from Thomas Jefferson to Martha Stewart.

    They are taking orders now with shipments beginning on October 1st. They offer a small but select list of heirlooms of many varieties, including:

    Crocus Snowbunting, cultivated since 1914, the great Southern gardener Elizabeth Lawrence wrote, “If I could have only one crocus, it would be this.” She praised its “pearly” buds and its “delightful, strong, and musk-like” fragrance.

     

    Double Campernelle, cultivated for over 400 years, this classic beauty has dozens of petals neatly nested together as if in a perfect miniature rose – and just as fragrant!

     

     

    Trillium grandiflorum, this simple but stunning wildflower that Allan Armitage calls “the epitome of woodland natives” is also a great garden plant. As far back as 1805 Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon recommended bringing it in from the woods to “grace and embellish the flower-garden”.

     

    This is just a very small sampling of the many wonderful heirloom bulbs Old House Gardens offers. I encourage you to visit their website: http://www.oldhousegardens.com/

    Select some beauties to plant this fall...to enjoy in the spring!

    Time to Transplant

    Did you know fall is a great time to divide, share and transplant most perennials? Timing is the key to successfully transplanting and/or dividing perennials. Here's a general rule of thumb that will help you determine the best time to transplant any perennial:

    • If the plant blooms in the spring, move it in the fall - September is ideal in most areas. Good candidates for fall are siberian iris, day lilies and hosta.
    • If a plant blooms in the summer or fall, move it in the spring. Fall blooming anemone and aster are good examples.

    Some perennials may need to be divided every three to four years, others will quite happily grow for up to ten years before they need to be divided, and a few species don't like to be divided at all. How will you know when it's time for dividing perennials? The best thing to do is to observe the plants and let them tell you when. It is time for dividing perennials when you notice any of the following symptoms:

    • The plant is flowering less than usual and the blooms are smaller
    • Growth in the center of the plant is dying, leaving a hole in the center with growth only around the edges
    • The plant isn't growing as vigorously as it has in the past
    • The plant has outgrown its space in the garden and is becoming crowded by its neighbors

    Follow these simple steps when dividing your perennials:

    1. Start by digging around the perimeter of the plant with a sharp spade
    2. After digging all around the plant, slide your spade beneath the clump and using the spade as a lever, lift the plant out of the ground
    3. Use a sharp spade or a knife to cut the clump into smaller, more manageable plants
    4. It can be helpful to hose off some of the soil around the roots, to help you get a better view of the roots
    5. Discard any sections of the plant that are dead and trim off any damaged roots
    6. Keep the divisions moist and in the shade until they can be replanted
    7. Replant the divisions at the same depth the plant was originally growing
    8. Water the newly planted divisions well and keep them from drying out while they re-establish themselves

    The cooler weather and the increased rains of fall give perennials a great start in a new location. And, if you look around, many local communities and garden clubs host fall perennial exchanges, so after you have completed changes in your garden, consider taking some of your 'leftovers' to community events and trade for something new and exciting in your garden!