Garden Happenings: Plant Sales

By Teresa Woodard

The plant-buying frenzy is about to begin, and there’s no better place for one-of-a-kind plants and great gardening advice than a public garden’s plant sale.  Besides, the sales generate significant income for botanic gardens, arboreta and plant societies.  At Ohio State University’s Chadwick Arboretum, for instance, a three-day event staffed by 180 volunteers pulls in more than $40,000.

Like Chadwick’s sale, many sales also feature auctions, pre-sale party nights, workshops and book signings.  To get first dibs on plants, check out the pre-sale events typically offered to members. No doubt, the membership privilege is well worth the $25-$50 annual dues.

Also, come with questions.  Many of the volunteers have first-hand experience growing the plants for sale.  So, don’t be afraid to ask for their favorite tomato plant, native shade tree or miniature varieties.  The only danger is you may end up with a trunk full of wonderful plants.

Favorite Tools: Edging iron

By Michael Leach

Those who share my desire for an organized, orderly environment — some dismiss us as mere control freaks — should consider investing in an edging iron.

Edging is the landscape equivalent of tucking in a shirttail, pinning back stray hairs and putting scattered papers into a straight stack.

A landscape designer I spoke with recently said, “If you have crisp, clean edging, it makes everything else just pop.”

Indeed it does. I started popping my landscape decades ago, after being introduced to edginess by a friend even more concerned about neatness than I.

Not long after this encounter, I visited England and beheld the epitome of crisp and clean. The English apparently use lasers guided by celestial navigational devices to surgically slice edges. Then they trim the grass with manicuring scissors. On this side of the pond, our coarse grass precludes British perfection, unless one opts for putting turf as lawn — standard grass over there. But I digress.

Edging is serious work. But the reward is almost instant gratification. Where once the lawn and border mingled in unseemly disarray, a clear boundary is set.

This is important for me, because my desire for neatness doesn’t extend to most of the borders and beds. They are packed with a hodge-podge of plants for an exuberant effect that is lost on a few. “What a jungle!” gasped one first-time visitor, who has yet to receive a second invitation.

Regardless of your landscape style, an edge brings crispness only for a time. Unfortunately nature abhors an edge almost as much as a vacuum. Rain and freezing weather erode it. Grass, clover and other insurgents sneak down the edge to invade beds. Meanwhile, the ornamental plants toss seeds or send runners into the gutter where a base camp is established for the lawn invasion.

To thwart these schemes, my edges are more like trenches dug several inches deep. Semiannual digging suffices for all but the most-seen parts of the landscape. Maybe someday I shall budget for permanent metal edging. So far, my desire for neatness hasn’t overcome another trait — frugality.


Favorite Tools: Perennial knife

By Debra Knapke

Teresa’s favorite tool is my second favorite.  The tool that goes with me everywhere in the garden is my trusty, multi-purpose perennial knife.  It plants bulbs, busts up soil, renews the edge on a garden and weeds with a vengeance.  My first one had a wood handle, but I found that a brown tool in a garden equals a lost tool in the garden.  All new perennial knives sport an orange plastic handle, and two of my three wood-handled knives now are wrapped with colored duct tape.  In total, I have six perennial knives; three wood, three orange.  You are probably wondering why?  Our children had to have their own perennial knives.  And, when I lost a knife in the garden, I ordered a replacement.  Then the lost knives reappeared.

There are only five well-loved and well-used knives in the picture.  Time to go hunting.

Posted in Snapshots


Favorite Tools: Okatsune shears

By Teresa Woodard

Spring gardening chores can be daunting, but the right tools help make the work more enjoyable.  Today, I share my hedge shears by Okatsune as we start a mini blog series on our Favorite Tools.  This Japanese-crafted set of blades is my go-to tool for trimming the boxwood hedge along the front of our house.  While I’ve tried other shears, these deliver much smoother and more precise cuts not crushing or “chewed” cuts.  Their sharpness and cutting power is attributed to the blades’ hot hammer-forged “Izumo Yasuki Steel”, which is supposedly used in the making of Japanese swords.  Check back for Debra’s and Michael’s favorite tools or comment here with your own favorites.

Trendspotting: Tangerine Tango

Canna 'Intrigue'

By Teresa Woodard

Bring runway style to your gardens with this season’s hot new color – Tangerine Tango.  Pantone, the creative industry’s color authority, has designated this daring reddish-orange color as the 2012 color of the year in its Fashion Color Report.

“Sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive, Tangerine Tango is an orange with a lot of depth to it,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset, Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy. So how do fashion-forward gardeners update their gardens with this trendy color?

Here are a few ideas.

Echinacea x 'Tiki Torch'

  • Containers:  Add orange punch to your containers with Canna ‘Intrigue’, Calibrachoa ‘Tangerine Punch’  Superbells™, Hibiscus ‘Pipedream Tangerine’ or Zinnia ‘Profusion Orange’.  Try a daring combination with purple foilage like coleus, sweet potato vine or fountain grass. For a softer look, mix tangerine colors with other citrus hues.
  • Landscape: Bring orange pop to your borders with annuals like Zinnia ‘Profusion Orange’,  Impatiens ‘Rockapulco Dark Orange’ or even mainstay marigolds. Also consider orange accents in your perennial beds with Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’, Geum ‘Cooky’,  Hemerocallis ‘Primal Scream’ (daylily) ,  Asclepias tuberosa (butterflyweed) or classic Oriental poppies.
  • Accessories: Don’t overlook the drama of a few tangerine-colored garden accessories.  Shop for containers in the season’s bold new color or grab a can of spray paint to update a bench, a trellis or other worn accent.  A tangerine-colored mailbox certainly would stop traffic.

Book Notes: Gardener’s Weather Bible

ImageThe Gardener’s Weather Bible: How to Predict and Prepare for Garden Success in Any Kind of Weather – Sally Roth, Rodale Press, 2003

Reviewed by Debra Knapke

Winter, what we had of it, is now a memory.  In an effort to figure out how to deal with a too early Spring that has temperatures spiking into the 80’s and 90’s, I went back to an older book on my bookshelf by Sally Roth.  The Gardener’s Weather Bible is a wonderful blend of understanding natural weather phenomena and what to do in the garden when rain, hail, wind, snow, and more, grace or threaten your garden.  The first half of the book is all about weather and how it is predictable if you know the signs, yet unpredictable because, well, it’s the weather!  As the old adage says: “if you don’t like the weather, wait a moment and it will change;” a sentiment Midwesterners are all too familiar with!

Various garden techniques and planting schemes are nestled into the sections on developing your weather-sense and nature-sense.  Learn how to identify cloud types and what they indicate.  For example: in cloudy weather divide and transplant perennials to reduce the transplant shock.  And, set out slug traps as slugs are much more active on a cloudy day than on a sunny one.  Discover how much snow equals 1” of water – hint: it depends on the type of snow.  Find out how you can predict whether or not frost will descend upon your garden in the spring and fall and save yourself some time and effort.

Every chapter combines the folklore your grandparents knew, with sound gardening advice.  After reading this book, you will be less reliant on the six o’clock news and more comfortable with planning your gardening tasks.

And, one last thought: “Don’t knock the weather. If it didn’t change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn’t start a conversation.”
― Kim Hubbard

Favorite Flora: Hellebore

Hellebore, Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybrida

By Debra Knapke

A bowl of hellebore flowers is a spring tradition in our home.  Hellebore or Lenten rose isn’t really a rose, but it does bloom during and after Lent, and sometimes before.  The nodding flowers are single, double; white to cream to pink to deep dusky purple.  They are dotted, spotted, picoteed, shaded and blushed.

If I had to point to a true workhorse in the garden it would be this group of plants.  I use the term group, because the complex, hybrid cross is made up of at least five different species, one of them being the original Lenten rose: Helleborus orientalis.  Culturally, hellebores are easy to establish and maintain.  They grow well in part sun to shade and will tolerate full sun (6+ hours) if most of that sun is from the east and south.  They bloom for 2-3 months.  You will notice that some flowers are “in seed” while others are just opening.  If you are looking for winter interest, the large, glossy, evergreen leaves offer an alternative to bare soil.  A bonus is that hellebores do not allow light to filter down to those pesky winter weeds that need light to germinate.

Hellebores take two to three years to establish roots that are drought tolerant. Do not let them dry out the first year and watch them the second and third during dry times and water accordingly.  Usually, deer do not eat the leaves, because they are well armed with very sharp serrations, or the flowers which are poisonous.  However, if a deer is hungry, all bets are off.  If you are a lazy or very busy gardener who doesn’t always get to dividing your perennials, hellebores are happy to grow in the same place for years.  I have three-foot-wide plants that have been in the same place for 14 years.  When you do divide them, do so carefully, as they are not fond of excessive root disturbance.

So what’s the downside of this plant?  They do have a tendency to self-seed; a lot.  But, the seedlings are easily raked up and left under the plant to compost back into the soil. Or, thinking about this in another way: you have lots to share.

Guest blog: Jane Rogers on Bloodroot

By Jane Rogers

Bloodroot is one of early spring’s most cherished wildflowers, in part because it’s a sure signal  spring has arrived.  This dazzling white, daisy-like flower pops wide open when the sun comes out, while on cloudy days you’ll notice the petals are closed and the leaf hugs the stem. As bloodroot matures the scalloped leaf makes a handsome groundcover.

When bloodroot is happily sited it spreads and self-seeds which enables me to spread drifts of it along my woodland pathways. Bloodroot will thrive at the edge of a woods or even in full sun if your yard is moist.

If you’d like to add bloodroot to your garden, but if you’re not lucky enough to have a friend who will share a clump, check spring plant sales. When planting, take care not to plant the rhizomes (rootstock) too deeply or heavily mulch or your plant may rot. Bloodroot transplants and divides well in spring or fall. Just slice rhizomes into 3” sections including a bud eye (to plant facing upward). Place pieces horizontally, 1/2″ to 1″ deep, cover lightly with leaf litter and water until established. Those orangish-red rhizomes and all parts of the plant will drip colored juices if it’s cut or broken, so be sure to wear an apron and gloves to avoid stains. Native Americans used bloodroot to paint their faces, weapons, baskets and dye their cloth. It’s fun, though, to paint a broken root across the palm of a child and tell this story.

I hope you’ll enjoy growing, multiplying and conserving the beautiful bloodroot in your own garden. By doing so you can help protect our nation’s native wildflowers for future generations to enjoy.

Thanks to Jane for sharing on Heartland Gardening.  She’s grows, studies and photographs wildflowers in her backyard in Akron, Ohio.  She also lectures and writes on wildflowers and exhibits her award-winning images, most recently in the touring “Three Women in the Woods” exhibit. 

Snapshots: April Foolery

On April Fool’s Day, here’s a little horticulture humor.  Thanks to Meadow View Growers of New Carlisle, Ohio, for the laugh.

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