Nourish – July 2018

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May 1 Meeting Notes

It’s Summer…Get Out in the Garden!

May 1 Meeting Notes

by Nancy Denison- AEMG

On May 1 our guest speaker was Rebecca Krans, the Consumer Horticulturist from our  MSU Extension office in the Upper Peninsula. She offered a long list of procedures and ideas for Smart Vegetable Gardening.  Smart Gardening is MSU Extension’s campaign to equip gardeners with science based, earth friendly and best practices for good soil and good crop yields.

Rebecca shared ideas of why people don’t plant vegetable gardens and then some steps in setting up a garden including planning your site, size, lighting, location and what types of things you’d like to grow. Also helpful is knowing which crops are cool-weather growers and which do best during the mid or warm season.  This makes it possible to plan successive plantings for maximum yield. Rebecca also gave suggestions for making your own compost, types of fertilizer, and various types of gardens. We appreciate your veggie garden knowledge, Rebecca, and thank you for sharing it with us!

Castle Farms, Photo by Bradley Macdonald, mlive

It’s Summer…Get Out in the Garden!

by Kellie Parks, EMG

Some botanic gardens in Michigan are well known, such as Matthaei Botanic Garden at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, and Michigan State University Horticulture Gardens in East Lansing. But our state is home to some fantastic lesser-known gardens as well. Here are just a few you might consider adding to your summer travel plans.

With a 2002 renovation, Castle Farms in Charlevoix ( now boasts a number of gardens to explore. Using native plants when possible, guests can stroll through the formal Butterfly Garden, East Garden with croquet and a small fountain, Alphabet Garden (a favorite with kids), Serenity Garden, and the King’s Grand Courtyard, a Renaissance garden based on the landscape at Chateau de Vaux-le-Comte in France. Both self-guided and guided tours are available-with a tram for transportation on a schedule.  Hours and admission fees vary throughout the season.

The seed (well, tuber actually) was planted for Dahlia Hill ( of Midland in 1966 with a Mother’s Day gift. Now home to 3000 plants of over 300 varieties of dahlias maintained solely by volunteers, this garden is open dawn to dusk and admission is free. Comprised of eight stone terraces, each variety is labeled along gravel pathways. Four aluminum sculptures can be found; the work of local Midland artist Charles Breed, who planted those first tubers. His working studio and museum is located on the grounds as well. There are two raised planters at the top of the terraces, one a donor garden and the other a memorial garden, where loved ones’ ashes can contribute to the growth of a beautiful dahlia plant. Each of the 20 dahlia petal forms are represented.  Mark your calendar for the last two Saturdays in May next year – their extra tubers are offered for sale then. The garden has been the recipient of the Keep Michigan Beautiful President’s Plaque and a President’s Award from The American Dahlia Society.

Photo by Howard Meyerson, mlive

Not far from White Cloud, within the Huron-Manistee National Forest lies the Loda Lake National Wildflower Sanctuary ( This is the only Wildflower Sanctuary located within a National Forest and has been funded financially and materially by the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan for over 70 years. A variety of ecological systems are supported here, including wetlands, marsh, creek, spring-fed lake, pine plantation, oak forest, and an old farmstead site. Amenities available are a self-guided 1.2-mile wildflower trail, cultural trail, birder’s checklist, picnic area, small boat launch, and a pollinator garden. Docent-led walks and environmental curriculum for groups are available via the National Forest Service Baldwin District Office.

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve ( began in 1941 when the first 12.5 acres were purchased by Kay and Walter Boydston as their country home. Kay’s passion for horticulture, crafts, and nature were attractive, drawing others to the property. There is a story told of Kay often planting into the darkness of the evening using her car headlights to illuminate her work. Local Niles area philanthropists facilitated the land becoming public and additional land purchases grew the property to 105 acres. Today, one can find a nature preserve, nature center, arboretum, conservatory, prairie, and gardens – which include a Railway and Nature Adventure Garden, Japanese Garden, Herb and Sensory Garden, and more. Ten trails of varying length and simplicity invite investigation and reveal an abundance of native wildlife. There is a garden shop and cafe, and numerous educational programs are available, including activity backpacks for the young and not-so-young to check out during a visit. There is a nominal admission fee, and groups are welcomed and offered a discount with advance purchase.

With all these blooms and plants waiting your arrival, plan your trip and get out into the garden.

Beautify – July 2018

Deadheading Around the Garden

by Nancy Denison, AEMG

Deadheading your garden flowers will help keep the area neat and tidy as well as promote and prolong flower blooms. An additional benefit is its help in controlling reseeding/spreading and crowding in the beds. Deadheading can be an overwhelming task as it was in the flower beds at the school where I taught.  The daisies and coreopsis were beautiful until it was time to deadhead and of course no one was around to do it. The trick is to do a little bit several times a week throughout the growing season.

It’s best to start to snip when the flower begins to decline, which might be a change of color or loss of petals. Weather; heat, rain, or lack of it, can affect the longevity of your various perennials and annuals. It is generally easiest to remember to prune spent flowers and stems to a point where there is a new lateral leaf or flower bud. If there is no new flower showing, cut the stem to a lateral leaf.

Some plants need a shearing with scissors as flowers bloom and fade at the same time. There are also plants that don;t need to be pruned at al as the do not rebloom. These include sedum, vinca, astilbe, and peony, just to name a few. Some flowers are easy to pinch off with your fingers, others with thicker stems will require scissors or hand pruners.  And of course the more flowers you cut and bring in to enjoy inside the house means less deadheading in the long run!


Fine Gardening Magazine. “Off With Their Heads”, Tracey DiSabato. August 2003 #92

Garden Gate Magazine. “Deadheading”, Jim Childs. August 2006

Garden Gate Magazine. “How To Deadhead 8 Great Plants”, Marcia Leeper. August 2012 #106

Serve – July 2018

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Munson Hospice House Work Bee

Habitat for Humanity: Fife Lake

Photo by Gayla Elsner

Munson Hospice House Work Bee

by Gayla Elsner

On April 29th, 21 volunteers participated in a work bee at Munson Hospice House.  Our group included rosarians from Cherry Capital Rose Society (CCRS), Hospice House Volunteers, and Master Gardener volunteers.  

We started with an excellent demonstration of how to prune and maintain Knock Out roses. The CCRS members guided each person as we pruned 100 rose bushes!  We fertilized with a special rose amendment made and donated by CCRS.

After the roses, sick ornamental trees were addressed.  Master Gardeners pointed out the symptoms of black knot fungus and showed how to prune the trees in the garden.  

Photo by Gayla Elsner

A delicious lunch was enjoyed as we shared our stories of how we got involved with the Hospice House garden.  Then we finished the day by weeding, cutting down grasses, and doing general garden clean up. The Hospice House volunteers were eager to learn about these tasks and discuss a schedule for regular maintenance of the garden.  

This garden had been tended sporadically over the last few years and needed rescuing.  This hardworking day was a great start toward the goal of getting the garden back to the peaceful place of natural beauty that the hospice patients and their families deserve.

Photo by Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity: Fife Lake

by Cheryl Gross, AEMG

Last fall I heard about an opportunity to work on installing landscaping at a Habitat for Humanity home in the Depot Neighborhood in Traverse City.  At the end of the day, the timing did not work for me. I did, however, ask to be kept on their radar for another home. The Fife Lake landscaping project finished June 20th.  

The project began on a site visit with the prospective homeowner, her mentor, and the construction manager.  Together we examined the site and the existing plants, which included a lot of Michigan yellow sand and a few invasive species. The prospective homeowner had done her homework and gave me a list of plants she liked.  She explained very clearly that she liked things symmetrical, wanted an abundance of blossoms and her favorite plants were day lilies and bushy roses. I talked about the soil, sun, and the benefits of including native plants.  

Next step was a nine-page summary report of the site and possible plants including pictures and characteristics.  The report included information on lawn seeding and container planting as well. An investigation and summary of the prospective homeowner plant lists revealed that many of them were not hardy to Zone 5 and explanation of each plant was provided.

Habitat for Humanity and the prospective homeowner then began to acquire plant material.  Pine Hill Nursery generously donated some native perennials and lavender. The Habitat for Humanity’s partner nursery offered none of the plants on our desired plant list but donated five other shrubs and lavender.

Once the plants were acquired, the prospective homeowner described how she wanted them planted.  This was a difficult stage in the process for me. The plants available did not necessarily ‘fit’ in her desired location.  For example, she wished to have a shrub between the porch and entry walk in a space no more than 18-24 inches deep. Also the drip lines of the roof needed to be considered to protect the shrubs from snow damage. Again, researching each plant donated, information describing the growing habit of the plant was presented.  

This brought us to install day.  Nine women from Century 21 Realty volunteered for a day of service.  The day dawned sunny and seasonably warm and the soil retained some moisture from the heavy weekend rain.  It was perfect. I laid plants in place and waited for the prospective homeowner to arrive and rearrange things to her vision.  The realtors got to work digging invasive honey suckle, pulling garlic mustard, removing myrtle and rescuing sedum. They were amazing; hard working and very efficient.  The prospective homeowner arrived and made her tweaks to the plant arrangement. In no time at all, plants were in the ground, a bit of compost added to the shrub holes, the sedum was used as filler between shrubs as we wait the plants to grow, and a top dressing of mulch was added.  Landscaping added an incredible visual to the house.

Wrapping up the project, it made me sad that the prospective homeowner did not have the two plants she most wanted, day lilies and bush roses.  So, I got my hands on a smaller form day lily, the gold one that is so common and purchased a Drift rose. It was all worth it.

My role in this project was educational only.  With the number of volunteers taking a day from their jobs to support Habitat for Humanity, it was important that they keep busy with hands-on work.  I am confident that each individual involved in landscaping this Habitat Home gained more than they gave. I certainly did.

Steward – May 2018

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On the Radar: May

Landscaping with Native Plants, March Meeting Note

What’s in Your Gardening Library?

On the Radar: May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Begin May with a soil test!  Test your lawn soil OR your vegetable soil OR your flower garden soil.  Know what your soil needs and treat to address those needs.  Locally, McGough’s accepts soil samples and has results available in 7-10 days for $20.  MSU also conducts soil tests. Go online and check it out:

Vow to avoid synthetic fertilizers in your yard this year!  Go organic. Feed the soil to support the plants. Stay away from “chemicals and drugs” that degrade the soil and boost plant growth.

Begin a compost pile.  In an out-of-the-way corner, hopefully in the sun, begin layering leaves and carbon-based materials with green, nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps and yard waste.  Water occasionally and stir. Depending upon your activity, usable compost can be available in 4-12 months (or more). Save organic matter from the landfill and yield nutritious compost for your yard!  See

Landscaping with Native Plants, March Meeting Note

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Our meeting on March 6th featured Cheryl Gross (of MGANM/Real Dirt and Plant It Wild fame) sharing her knowledge of landscaping with native plants. Having experienced the reshaping of her sandy soiled home on Lake Michigan and most recently ridding much of her new home’s property of extensive sod, Cheryl spoke of choosing the right kinds of plants for the ecosystem; to help stabilize the soil, reduce water runoff and strengthen connections between plants, insects, birds and habitat.

Design is the key to provide structure and beauty with native plants. Define your edges, decide what you want to look at–what’s your focal point, and think about blooming plants, shrubs, low/border plantings and seasonal views.

Cheryl provided lots of before and after photos, plant suggestions and resources/readings for more information on creating native plant environments and sources for purchasing items.  Thanks so much, Cheryl, for your entertaining and informative walk through your gardens!

What’s in Your Gardening Library?

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

The first two books we put in our gardening library were Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan by Lynn M. Steiner and All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholmew.  Since then, we have collected various books based upon the topic at hand.  One year it was wildflower identification as we were learning new things in the woods and meadows.  Another year we built our insect book collection.  If you are interested in ecological gardening, some of the following books may be of interest to you.

Why gardening with native species matters:

Bringing Nature Home, Douglas Tallamy, c. 2007  Tallamy’s ground-breaking book on the relationships between plants, insects and birds.  Accessible for the reader. Provides the science of the ecological web. A must read.

A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future, Benjamin Vogt, c. 2017  Vogt expands the idea of gardening for the web of life to the importance of native landscapes to humans as well.  Humans desperately need a balance with nature which is only available through wildflower gardens. We urgently need wildness in our daily lives.

Flower identification and culture:

A Field Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Michigan’s Natural Communities, Kim Borland, Suzan Campbell, Rebecca Schillo, Phylis Higman, MSU Extension, c. 2009  Just because the land ‘looks’ wild, does NOT mean it is natural. Our woods, fields, and even landscapes are filled with non-native, invasive plants.  To support natural habitats and natural ecosystems, we must first know all of these nasties by name and remove them.

Wildflowers of Michigan, Stan Tekiela, c. 2000.  The best way to learn to love Michigan native plants is to see them in a natural setting.  Tekiela’s Field Guide is a handy reference. Organized by blossom color, he includes information on plant native/non native status.

Wild Flowers of the Dunes, Diane K. Chaddock, c. 1998.  Visiting the exceptional Dunes communities along the Lake Michigan exposes us to rare plant communities.  These dunes plants, some are threatened and protected, all survive and thrive in harsh sand and winds.

Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie c. 2006.  A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States.  A good comprehensive guide with related plants grouped together and location maps.  Good photos and descriptions for identifying a plant. No information on native/invasive status.

Michigan Wildflowers in Color, Harry C. Lund, c. 1985.  A field guide with beautiful photos.  Good section on nomenclature. Indicates plant status as to protected or endangered.  Grouped by blossom color. No mention of native/non-native status

What’s Doin’ the Bloomin’?, Clayton R. Osland, 2011 A Guild to Wildflowers of the Upper Great Lakes Regions, Eastern Canada and Northeastern USA.  Organized by habitat and season makes this easy to use when in the field. Origin is specified when not native.

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb, c. 1977.  A true field guide using a key to identify the plants.  By answering 5 questions about the plant before you, and using a numbering system based upon the Flower, Plant, and Leaf, the reader is guided through an ever narrowing group of plants to the identification of the one.

Trees of Michigan and the Upper Great Lakes, Norman F. Smith, c. 1995. Two full pages of information on each tree species with photographs of leaves, bark, seeds, etc.  Focus is on the tree, habitat, and behavior.


Attracting Native Pollinators, The Xerces Society, c. 2011  A comprehensive guide to pollinators and their habitat needs.  Included are gardening and seeding guides, insect identification, habitat construction, and the like.  Helpful step-by-step instructions.

Pollinators of Native Plants, Heather Holm c. 2014  Heather Holm introduces us to the native pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles, and flies) in our region and the plants they require for food and larval hosting.  Clearly identifies the insects and they way they interact with plants.

Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Crenshaw c. 2004  Entomologist recommended for identifying and understanding the insects in the garden.  Which are good and which are bad? Photography is especially helpful.

Michigan Butterflies and Skippers, Mogens C. Neilson, MSU Extension c. 1999 Helpful in identifying the butterfly stage but nothing on the larval host stage.  Good photos of the butterflies and information on location, habitat and larval host plants.

Caterpillars of Eastern North America, David Wagner, c. 2005.  FINALLY, a caterpillar book.  A go-to on our shelves. Helpful pictures of caterpillars AND pictures of their butterflies.  Full of useful information.

Spiders of the North Woods, Larry Webber c. 2003.  Who doesn’t need a spider ID book?  They are everywhere in our garden and landscape, if you haven’t poisoned them.  They are beneficial in every way as they are carnivores and feast on annoying insects.  Celebrate these unsung heroes.

Butterflies of Michigan, Jaret C. Daniels c. 2005.  There are over 150 butterflies in Michigan and this field guide will help you identify who you see in your yard and as you trek in natural areas throughout the state.

Bees of the Great Lakes Region and Wildflowers to Support Them, Jason Gibbs, Ashley Bennett, Rufus Isaacs, Joy Landis, MSU Extension  c. 2015 As we pay more attention to the bees in our flower gardens, our curiosity expands past the Bumble Bee or the Honey Bee.  Some bees are specialists, some generalists, all need nectar and pollen support across the season. Learn to recognize and understand these hard workers.  Garden to enhance and protect their habitat.

Growing a bird feeder:

How To Attract Birds, Ortho Books, c. 1983.  This one is an ‘oldie-but-a-goodie.  It was written well before the recognition of the importance of native plants in the landscape, so plant choices should be double checked.  However, it provides very good information on hosting birds.

Birdscaping in the Midwest, Mariette Nowak, c 2007.  Subtitled: A Guide to Gardening with Native Plants to Attract Birds, Nowak’s book does just that.  This guide is packed full of information on habitats for birds created by gardens including plant selection and design.

Landscaping with native plants:

Landscaping with Native Plant of Michigans, Lynn M. Steiner, c. 2006.  A very handy reference book on plants.  Steiner includes information on plant habitat, behavior, size, features, and companion plants.  The Book includes flowers and ground covers, grasses and sedges, ferns, conifers, shrubs, trees and vines.  She does include cultivars which are not native plants.

The Living Landscape, Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy, C. 2104.  Designing for biodiversity in the home garden.  Darke and Tallamy take observations of plant layers and communities in the wild and apply those principles to landscaping at home.  Using native plants, their specialized relationships, biodiversity, ecological benefits, and more they offer a guide to beautiful and beneficial landscape design.

Planting in a Post-Wild World, Thomas Ranier & Claudia West, c. 2015  Humans need nature and wild things. Our current landscaping principles remove us from nature.  Rainer and West studied the behavior of plants in nature and using masses of fewer plant species in layers and communities found in nature are designing landscapes that recreate the wild in beautiful, beneficial, and acceptable ways.

Rain Gardens, Lynn M. Steiner & Robert W. Domm, c. 2012.  Sustainable landscaping for a beautiful yard and healthy world.  Rain gardens are important if we are to process and clean rainfall and run off on-site.  When we do this, we protect surface water. Steiner and Domm offer a clear guide to rain garden placement, excavation, planting, and more.  While utilitarian, rain gardens can be beautiful and beneficial habitat for insects and critters as well.

Nourish – May 2018

On the Radar: May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

BEGIN seed starting the first week!  In northern Michigan, delicate vegetable plants should be ready for the garden by Memorial Day.  Get a jump on the season with seed starting NOW.

Some vegetables are best started by seed and like the cool spring temperatures.  Seed peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach and such outdoors before warm-weather sensitive plants.

Later in the month, purchase your bedding vegetable plants that are easily added to the garden as started plants.  Tomatoes, eggplants and the like do best when the season is extended, and they are planted with a head start.

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

Insects of Early Spring: They’re For the Birds!

by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

Robins may be the official first sign of spring, but let’s not forget that they and other songbirds are busy stuffing themselves with bugs! Insects and other invertebrates provide these birds with the protein and fat they need to complete their migratory flights and lay eggs so that they can produce more songbirds. The first insects to become active in the spring are those that spent the winter as adults. Some of these you can even see in late winter, like this winter crane fly walking on the snow on a warm day.

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

Many flies (Order: Diptera) are among this group that appear in the spring as soon as the temperature is high enough for their wing muscles to function.

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

Lawn and garden pests that are a nuisance early in the spring are usually those that are not adults, but larvae still living in the soil still. European chafer grubs are one of the earliest scarab beetle larvae that migrate from the lower layers of soil to feed on the roots of your lawn turf in the spring. Cutworms, too, can be a problem for early spring gardening as they will snip off your starts just an inch above the soil’s surface. Flocks of songbirds feeding on these scrumptious snacks may be your first sign of a lawn or garden infestation.

One of the biggest problems for early spring gardeners to watch out for are the bud chewing insects. Many of these are small members of the group of insects that includes butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). The adults of these species lay eggs on twigs in early spring and the larvae feed on buds and leaves as they begin to emerge from dormancy. Some will even bore into the terminal end of a shoot, leaving a hollowedout twig at the end of a branch. These insects often leave signs of their presence such as strands of silk and frass (insect feces).

Photo by N. Walton, MSUE

As they grow, some of these tiny Lepidoptera larvae will grow larger and tie the plant’s earliest leaves together into a bundle or roll, which is why they are known by the common name: leafrollers. Keep an eye on your favorite trees and shrubs this spring for these bud chewers so that you can decide if you need to take action to protect them. Of course, it’s always a good option to just leave them for the birds!

Note:  All photos by N. Walton, MSUE


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