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
By the end of the month, flower gardens will be set for the season. May is when annuals shine. Rules of thumb for annuals in the garden and in containers begin with the color wheel! Make things pop with opposites… blues and oranges, yellow and reds…or go for a classy monochromatic look by layering the same color in different flowers and leaf textures.
Keep in mind the “filler, spiller, thriller” rhyme in your pots and hanging baskets.
Use annuals to fill beds as you await the spread of perennials and shrubs.
Creating a Monarch Butterfly Waystation
by Barbara Platts, Extension Master Gardener in Training
Michigan to Mexico migration
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are one of the most well-known butterfly species in North America. They are easily recognized due to their orange and black wings. The eastern monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent over the last 20 years due mainly to habitat loss in Michigan and Mexico, where they migrate during the colder months. After overwintering in Mexico, monarchs travel north to seek out larval food sources where plants are plentiful. To view recent winter and summer migration patterns click here.
Monarchs need a variety of habitats to both overwinter and refuel along the way as they travel to and from Michigan. They require access to a wide variety of flowering plantsto survive the annual flight. Monarchs are pollinating insects that travel to flowering plants, drinking nectar and transporting pollen.
You can easily integrate monarch food sources into your garden. Find a location that receives at least six hours of sun a day. Light or low clay provides the best soil type and drainage, however areas with poor run off can support more tolerant plants. Plants should be spaced relatively close together to attract the highest number of monarchs and provide shelter from both predators and the elements.
Must have food sources for monarchs include milkweed and nectar plants. A minimum of ten milkweed plants consisting of two or more species is ideal. Having more than one species provides a constant food source as plants mature and flower at different rates during the season. Milkweeds contain cardiac glycoside, a chemical monarchs absorb that is toxic to predators.
Monarchs also need a consistent nectar source. This can be accomplished by planting a combination of at least four biennial or perennial native plants in your garden space to promote continuous blooms throughout the season.
Plants that attract monarch butterflies to gardens:
Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) – An early milkweed variety. Shorter species. Good for garden borders.
Additional plants that attract monarch butterflies include perennials such as blazing star, bee balm, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, primrose, yarrow, aster, stiff goldenrod, Ohio spiderwort, Maximillian sunflower, blanket flower, prairie phlox, spotted Joe-pye weed, common boneset and dandelion. Annuals include cosmos, zinnias, marigold and sweet alyssum.
Designing your garden
For dry condition planting (well-drained soil) you will need:
Minimum 100 square feet
Minimum 10 milkweed plants, 5 each of two different milkweed species
Minimum 4 biennial or perennial native species for nectar, total 19 plants in this design
Number of plants – 29, spaced 18″ apart
For wet condition planting (poorly drained soil) you will need:
Minimum 100 square feet, total 250 square feet
Minimum 10 plants if using one species of milkweed, 15 milkweed plants in this design
Minimum 4 biennial or perennial native species for nectar, total 49 plants
Number of plants – 64, 24 spaced 24″ apart, 40 spaced 16″ apart
Sustaining your garden
Maintain the monarch habitat by mulching. Mulching should decrease by the third year after you have established your garden. Some native plants may need thinning. Fertilize as needed and remove dead leaves and stalks in late spring if necessary. Water, eliminate insecticide use and remove invasive species.
Certifying your monarch waystation
You can register and certify your monarch waystation by completing an online application. Click here.
by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
On our recent trip to Southern California I was able to visit the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas, just a few miles from our former home in Cardiff by the Sea. It began as a farm and then private residence of Ruth Larabee, who was an avid plant collector and naturalist. In 1957, she donated the land to the county of San Diego as a wildlife sanctuary and park. It became Quail Botanic Gardens in 1970 and while I do remember the name, I never had the opportunity to visit while living in the area. The county stopped the funding of the gardens in 1993 and the non-profit Quail Gardens Foundation, Inc. took over the operation of the garden. In 2009 the name was changed to the current SD Botanic Garden.
There are four miles of trails on 37 acres of gentle hills, with over 4,000 species and varieties of plants from all over the world. There are gardens with plants from Mexico, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa, in addition to succulent, herb, fire safety and children’s areas as well to explore. It was a perfect spot to walk on a misty Saturday morning and the reciprocal (with our own botanical garden) free admission gave a feeling of being home again for this gardener.
Giant Golden Barrel Cacti, photo by AEMG Nancy Denison
Leaving San Diego, we drove up to Palm Springs for a few days seeking warmth and sun, which eluded us for the most part, but provided a chance to visit the Moorten Botanical Garden on S. Palm Canyon Dr.
This unique garden and “cactarium” was established in 1938 by Patricia and Chester “Slim” Moorten. Slim was an original Keystone Cop and Patricia, a biologist specializing in botany. Together, their love of the desert inspired them to begin collecting samples of plants from the surrounding areas and later Guatemala and into Mexico.
The gardens now contain about 3,000 examples of cacti and other desert plants from California and Arizona to as far away as Africa and Madagascar. The paths wander around part of the grounds of the Moorten home, the “Cactus Castle” and Palm Grove Oasis area. There are crystals, rocks and fossils in various spots as well as a few items for sale on your way out. It was a quick walk through for me with a few items I had not previously seen; the organ pipe cactus, desert willow and creosote bush were highlights. The gardens are available for weddings, meetings and concerts; and certainly an interesting spot to visit in the Palm Springs area.
The gardens may be sleeping this time of year, but that doesn’t mean everything else is at a standstill! In 2018, the Botanic Garden will be moving forward with the actual planting of the Secret Garden. Plant selections have been made by Laurel Voran and Maria Tucker and are on order for spring delivery. Last fall, our work crew, affectionately called Possum Lodgers, worked to dump, spread and level soil to be ready for plants. The theme is Asian and will feature a new tree that replaces the Chinese chestnut that had to be removed due to poor health.
Work on the Fire Wise Garden will continue with plantings. Most of the hardscape has been completed including a walkway from the Rain Gardens area to the top of the hill, where a beautiful view of the Historic Barns Park awaits anyone who makes the walk.
Even more exciting, plans for the Healing Gardens will soon be executed, with Tom Hogge, Nelson, Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, coming to view the site and gather info to incorporate into the design. In addition, the labyrinth will be moved in line with the sugar maple allee and other gardens will be designed including a Native American medicine wheel garden.
The Botanic Garden officially opens April 1st and that’s no joke! There will be new items available for purchase once Mike McNulty gets back to work. Docent training will take place and of course our Garden Angels will be busy doing cleanup planting—both great volunteer opportunities for Master Gardeners to get volunteer hours.
Stay tuned for what is to come at the Garden.
MGANM Meeting, February 6, 2018
by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
A packed house was eagerly attentive to Angie Lucas from GT Regional Land Conservancy as she introduced the method of wildflower identification using the Newcomb Key. I do like to know my flower names but had never heard of this method of identifying plants. So, I appreciated learning about another tool that can be carried around in your back pocket. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb uses a key system to identify wildflowers, flowering shrubs and vines in the northeast and north central part of North America. By using observations of a plant’s type, leaf and flower, one can use the key numerals to determine the name of the plant.
Angie offered several additional resources for plant identification: Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy website (gtrlc.org), Michiganflora.net, an app called INaturalist and the book Fern Finder by Barbara Hallowell.
As a whole, gardeners LOVE their flowers. From late spring to early fall in northern Michigan we eagerly anticipate, enjoy and finally ‘tidy-up’ after our perennial gardens. Generously, that provides 4 months of interest. There are 12 months in a year and for eight long months a flower garden is generally blah. Blah, blah, blah.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now is the time to gaze at your garden under the snow and plan for a livelier, interesting winter garden showplace.
An effective garden design begins with structure. One focal point shrub or small tree may be all that is needed in a small garden to give it eye-popping interest. In a larger space, consider a small tree and shrubs. Draw the garden space on graph paper and place a woody plant where it provides interest from all viewing sites. Often, it is near the center of the bed or off to a background edge. Keeping things in odd numbers is an easy rule of thumb; one specimen tree with three shrubs. Consider scale, such as expected height and width of the woody plant and response to pruning. Then consider shape. Will a single trunk small tree suit the garden style or a multi trunk? Single trunk appears more formal, while multi trunk appears less formal…even with the same species. Would vase-shape or globe shape fit your idea of beauty. Finally, consider the branch. A red twig dogwood is just that… RED! Having red stems contrast with white snow for four months of the year is as good as a blossom. The peeling bark of the vase-shaped nine bark gives a different, interesting ‘look’. While at study for woody shrubs and small trees, make note of bloom time and color. Many of these plants also add a nectar source for pollinators and butterflies, a larval host for caterpillars and a berry for birds.
Another structural feature to have in a garden is hardscape. A low stone wall, cluster of large boulders, an arbor or plant support of some kind left out all season adds interest to a flat landscape. Some of these items may actually be lost in a summer garden, such as a large chunk of driftwood, only to reappear after plant dieback.
Once the garden structure is in place, move on to perennials. Which perennials in the garden have stiff stems to withstand winter weather? Purple coneflower, Iron Weed, Butterfly Weed and Penstemon come to mind. While still ‘dead’, the stems provide a place for your eye to scan or land when gazing at the garden. The sturdy stems provide a reminder that under the frost and deep snow a beautiful flowering plant sleeps. Additionally, some of these spent flower heads offer nutritious seeds for birds, especially the purple coneflower or sunflower family.
Finally, many of the clump forming grasses produce gorgeous seed heads. The tall Indian Grass blooms yellow in August and stands tall through the winter, waving with the strong winds. Shorter grasses such as Little Blue Stem and Prairie Dropseed keep their seed heads through the early winter season and end as mounds under the snow. On a slope, these mounds evoke a miniature mogul ski run.
A final word on winter interest in the garden addresses fall clean-up. In other words, don’t bother. Leaving stems and fallen plants in the garden provides insect and critter habitat crucial to their survival. These mounds and stems also provide us a vision of a garden hibernating awaiting the first thin rays of spring sun to melt the snow and send up bright spring shoots ahead of the summer flowers.
List of Plants for Winter Interest:
Serviceberry, Amelanchier laevis. Offers an arching, vase shape.
Red osier dogwood, Cornus stolonifera Red-barked stems/branches.
Little Blue Stem, Schizachyrium scoparium. Feathery seed heads in early winter, mound in deep winter.
Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans. Tall, fluffy seed heads.
Amaryllis, photo by AMG Michele Worden
Amaryllis – The Gift that Keeps Giving
by Michele Worden, Advanced Master Gardener
As I enter the growing area in my garage, I see that one of my eleven potted amaryllis bulbs is about to flower. I like to maintain these plants under the grow lights in my garage to keep them short until close to blooming. Now is time, though, to take this one precocious bulb inside so it can shine!
A good time to buy amaryllis bulbs is after Christmas. You will see them on sale everywhere. I usually can’t resist. Amaryllis is a tender perennial bulb. You can keep it forever and with benign neglect (or minimal care) it will rebloom for years.
When you first get a bulb or a bulb in a kit, you want to plant the bulb in pre-moistened soil in a pot that fits tightly – no more than a one-inch space between the bulb and the pot. The roots like to be crowded. The bulb should sit up in the pot, only half covered with soil.
Put your newly planted bulb in a warm dark place until the lone flower stalk starts to emerge. I usually put it in a dark corner of my house on top of a floor heating vent. Do not water again until the flower stalk starts to emerge.
When it blooms you many need to tie it to a stake if it gets too leggy. I try to put it in a sunny area of my living room under the sky lights. Sometimes the plant will send up another flower stalk and extend the indoor blooming. Blooms last a couple weeks, though some types develop more than one flower on a stalk like a lily and can last a month or more.
After it blooms, it will produce several long thin green leaves. Just keep it watered and lightly fertilized like any house plant. In the summer I put them on my deck in bright but not really direct sunlight. Towards fall I try to remember to stop watering it and let it dry out so that it can go dormant. In a good year I remember to take It inside my garage early enough (August or September) to rebloom for Christmas time. Otherwise, I just take it indoors with the other plants in mid-October and plan to enjoy it over the winter.
Amaryllis needs about three months of a dark, dry dormancy to rebloom. I put the pots in my garage (kept at 50-60 degrees F) in a dark corner in a brown paper grocery bag. I tuck the bags in out of the way corners, and try to remember to check on them occasionally. I have heard people also put them inside in closets.
This year my resolution is to not forget about them. Last May I noticed a long pale ghostly white flower stalk peeking out of the top of a bag in the corner of the garage. It was a full-size amaryllis that had grown in darkness in the bag! I quickly checked all my bulbs. Some had bloomed in the bags…LOL. Luckily, the green returned to the white stalks when I moved then into the light, and we enjoyed the leggy flowers in late May. Still beautiful, if a tab unseasonal. Happily, this year I actually have some ready to go for Christmas!
But I will still probably buy more after Christmas.
“The Reason for Flowers”, photo by MG Nancy Denison
Book Review — The Reason for Flowers
by Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener
Have you read the book, The Reason for Flowers by Stephen Buchmann? I found it at a local bookstore, on sale, and thought it might be a good addition to my small collection of gardening /plant books. It was published by Scribner, in 2015, and authored by a pollination ecologist, entomologist and adjunct professor at the University of Arizona. He previously published, The Forgotten Pollinator and Honey Bees: Letters From the Hive.
The Reason for Flowers is organized into five sections, each with two or three chapters combining historical facts and everyday examples in an easy to read and interesting style.
Part One, entitled “Sexuality and Origins,” explains how flowers evolved from small leaves bunched together at the stem tip to losing their green color and developing petal and bract structures over time. Buchmann likens flowers to “cafes and rest stops,” offering pollinators a wealth of four types of food: nectar, pollen, floral oils and the edible body tissues of some.
Part Two—”Growing, Breeding and Selling” tells of the history of ornamental gardens including flowers, topiaries, obelisks, figurines and more. Flowers were used for burials and funerals dating back to Neanderthals, as well as for research and breeding from Asia to Europe and the Americas. Today we can get our cut flowers from a small florist to a big box warehouse. Not too long ago, California was the mainstay for the cut flower industry. However, Columbia, Ecuador and Costa Rica with their rich soil, constant climate and 12 hours of daylight all year, are now the largest producers of flowers for our markets.
“Foods, Flavors and Scents” takes on how we eat the flowers of plants such as broccoli, cauliflower and artichokes and the importance of knowing what plants are non- edible. The information on saffron, cloves and honey adds to the awareness of how all things in nature are so interconnected. The chapter describing the ancient use of flower or plant oil for fragrance begins with the Arabs prior to the 10th century when they learned how to distill fragrance from fresh flowers creating the first rose water. The use of flower oils and essences for our wellbeing is as strong as ever today.
Part Four’s chapters offers some history of the secret language of meaning in giving and receiving flowers and how all cultures have used flowers as the subject of poems, stories, myths and art, from the early Sumerians to the Grimm Brothers versions of the French and German fairy tales to the landscape paintings by early Asian cultures.
Lastly, “Flowers in the Service of Science and Medicine” explains how the scientific study of flowers has changed how we see our world. Linnaeus, Mendel and Darwin among many others, brought to light how plants regenerate, travel from one part of the world to another, can be modified, provide food, shelter and cures for simple and serious ailments. Simply put, we need nature and nature needs us!
The book closes with appendices on flower statistics, recipes, how to care for cut flowers and online resources for conservation organizations.
Sometimes a book just pops out at you and you discover it is just what you need!
Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM
Before a gardener hangs up the trowel for the season, there is time to do one more task for spring blooming… plant bulbs! Spring bulbs can offer a flower in melting snow or cheery color before perennials are up and budding. November is the perfect time to add bulbs to the garden.
Design-wise, cluster bulbs for masses of color. Remember that while we like rainbows in the sky, on the ground a mass of one color has greater impact and visual appeal. Bulbs also come in a wide variety of blossom and bloom time. Look for some early and late bloomers to keep flowers from early into late spring. Because bulbs bloom earlier than perennials you may plant them very close to other plants or add annuals above them when they are spent. The bulb blossoms will be finished just as other plants move to center stage. Remember to retain the bulb greens as they nourish the bulb before doing dormant. Cut back only as they begin to yellow.
As a general rule, large bulbs should be planted 8 inches deep; smaller bulbs 5 inches. Bulbs require well-drained soil. They tend to rot if planted in wet soil. Squirrels also prefer some bulbs (such as tulips) over daffodils. The same with deer. Before you add bulbs to your garden give consideration to the moisture level and check out which rodent or mammal finds bulbs and blossoms tasty and which are dominate in your yard.
Give it a go. Plant some bulbs. Sit back and wait for a spring reward. Like many plants in our gardens, they can be re-arranged and expanded NEXT fall after you evaluate the spring show!
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