Beautify – January 2019

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

My Christmas Blessing

Engage with Trees


My Christmas Blessing

by Barbara Fasulo-Emmott, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

My 35-foot spruce tree was diagnosed at the Michigan State Cooperative Extension office on Front Street with both needle cast disease and canker disease in late summer.  She was a magnificent specimen that provided some 34 years of calming, serene beauty at a home I call “my sanctuary.” I transplanted her from our downstate residence as a sapling over 30 years ago, and she flourished in our wooded setting next to a state forest.  I questioned our MGANM Director/Coordinator, Nate Walton about the feasibility of bringing her indoors for the Christmas season. I was assured that her diseases would not negatively impact my houseplants or anybody living in our home.

My 7-year-old grandson and I started pruning off the lower 10 feet of branches and burning them in our fire pit.  Thanksgiving weekend I decided to cut her down. I notched it and cut it with my chain saw about ¾ through when I realized if it didn’t fall where I expected, it could possibly take out the back deck on my house.  Consequently, I went to Ace Hardware to purchase a weighted rope tool like I’ve seen the professionals use. Ace only had rope, and when I explained to the sales clerk what I needed, he insisted he’d come out the next morning to help and make sure I would be safe.  He insisted there would be no charge and totally free. I kept saying “no, that’s not necessary…I can do it.” By the time I left the store, I had given him my phone number and he promised to call for directions after work and would be at my home at 8 a.m. the next morning before he returned to work.

To my surprise, he really did call for directions and sounded serious about coming out to help, so I baked date nut bread and chocolate cookies for him.  At 7:45 a.m. I was outside, attaching my new rope to a round, orange extension cord holder and proceeded to repeatedly toss it in the air till I was able to get it over a branch midway up the tree. Then, attached it to a large neighboring tree at the edge of the woods. He arrived shortly after and adjusted the rope tighter for me. He said, “I think I’ll stand behind this other tree while you cut that one down”.  I got my chain saw and finished cutting her down. She fell exactly where I planned. (Hurrah!) He then attached the rope from the tree to the undercarriage of his vehicle and pulled the tree up the hill to my driveway, where I dragged it to the bottom step of my porch. I was so grateful for his kindness and unsolicited help and I gave him the baked goods and a very sincere thank-you in return.

My three sons arrived for another grandson’s first birthday party the following week and all contributed to the tree being brought into the house. Michael brought the tree stand up out of storage, moved the sofa, love seat and two tables. Matt and David pulled it through the front door and put it in the stand. Matt cut a couple feet off the top where it was bending over at the vaulted ceiling. It was a family effort with help from a concerned stranger. Such a perfect ending for our dying tree to become a beautiful Christmas gift for the whole family.


Engage with Trees

by Nancy Denison Advanced Extension Master Gardener

I love the shapes of trees- -the gnarly trunks, branches stretched, standing straight or old and bent over. They are works of art.  In the woods behind my house where I grew up were trees with metal labels with the name of the tree. I thought that was the coolest thing. Fortunately, in the past few years, the labels have been replaced, so those now walking through can begin to identify those towering beauties.  Even with a basic knowledge of types of bark, leaves, seeds, and tree shape one can identify those unique or unfamiliar trees.

Let’s begin with a little bit of history. The first known land plant, Cooksonia, evolved around 430 million years ago. It was erect, with a green stem and a simple underground root system. Sixty million years later Archaeopteryx arrived.  It was the first real tree with a root system, branches which produced buds and grew year after year- -possibly as long as 50 years. We now have over 80,000 different species of trees all over the world.

We know trees need water, minerals, nutrients, sunlight and warmth. Depending on the environment,
the tree will grow year round with periods of rest. Colder climes equal a longer rest or dormant period.
Location, shape, height, or leaves are just a few of the ways to determine the name or type of tree.
Trees can be spherical/round (White Oak), oval (Sugar Maple), conical (Spruce), columnar (Lombardy
Poplar), pyramidal (Pin Oak), V shaped (Hackberry), weeping (Willow), spreading deciduous or
coniferous (Japanese Maple, Yew).

source: “Trees-An Illustrated Identifier and Encyclopedia”

Bud leaves or scales are small, toughened leaves that remain on the branches after others have fallen.
Trees can be identified by the size, shape, color and arrangement of twig buds. They can be

  • alternate as in the Beech and Willow
  • opposing (Sycamore, Ash) 
  • hairy (Magnolia)
  • clustered (Cherry, Oak) 
  • naked –mature hairy leaves surrounding growing tips
  • whiskered and clustered (some Oaks)

Source: “Trees-An Illustrated Identifier and Encyclopedia”

Each leaf on a tree is like a mini power center which makes food (energy) the tree needs for living and growing. The smallest leaf is from an Arctic willow (Salix nivalis) which is about ¼”/5mm long. The largest is from the Raphis regalis, from the palm family Arecacae, which can be 82’/25.11m long by 10’/3m wide.  

Leaves are classified as either simple, meaning one continuous shape, or compound, which are made up of many leaflets connected to one stem. Simple leaves may come in many shapes; round, heart shaped, oval, serrated, lobed or palmate.   All leaves fall at about the same time from deciduous trees. Evergreen trees have leaves/needles all year long though they can fall throughout the year. The average evergreen keeps its leaves for three to five years. Needles are compact versions of simple leaves and also make food for the tree. They lose much less water than deciduous trees and can survive where water is limited, such as in the north where the ground is frozen for many months of the year.

Source: Familiar Trees of Michigan

Flowers are produced by most trees in the spring though some tropical trees can flower year round. It is easier to identify a tree with its flower. Species specific identification can be done by looking at color, number of petals (single or double), flower stalk length, flowers at the leaf axis or end of twig, and individual flowers or clusters.

Seeds/fruit help to identify trees best in the late summer or early fall. Some are well known from childhood such as the acorn or horse chestnut but the main types are the pod (honey locust), the nut/seed/burr (acorn, walnut) and the key/winged (maple, sycamore).   Individual conifer seeds are encased in a cone which can be held for many years waiting for the right time to allow their release.

Source: Familiar Trees of Michigan

Bark is the tree’s skin. Its corky outer layer can protect the tree from humans and animals, disease, and forest fires. Below the outer bark is the phloem, a spongey layer of living cells. The cambium, just one layer of cells below the phloem, has living cells which constantly divide. When the cells are deprived of water, they die and as they die, they become the outer bark. As each layer is produced it pushes the previous year’s bark outward.  The bark may start off smooth but will develop cracks, fissures and darken as it ages. Tree bark can be green, grey, brown, white, smooth, flakey, with deep or shallow ridges (vertical crests divided by intervening furrows), furrows (vertical grooves divided by narrow or wide ridges0, or fissures (regular or irregular, vertical or horizontal cracks or crevices).

Source: Language of Bark








I’m sure you’ll agree being able to recognize and identify trees as you travel, hike, or tour botanic gardens is a worthwhile goal. I was stunned by the camouflage colors of the rainbow eucalyptus trees I saw in Maui a few years back. So much so I have a large professionally photographed print of them hanging in my bedroom. What’s your favorite?

Burnie, David. Tree. London: Alfred Knopf Inc., 1988.
Neal, James. Familiar Trees of Michigan. MSU Cooperative Extension Service, 1982.
Russell, Tony and Cutler, Catherine. Trees, An Illustrated Identifier and Encyclopedia. Leicestershire: Hermes House, 2012.
Smith, Norman F. Michigan Trees Worth Knowing. Hillsdale, Michigan: Hillsdale Educational Publishers,
Symonds, George WD. The Tree Identification Book. New York: Quill, 1958.
Jay C Hayek, (2015). Identifying Trees by Bark and Bud (online). Department of Natural Resources and
Environmental Science, University of Illinois-Urbana. HayektreeID.pdf.
Michael Wojtech, (1-23-2013). The Language of Bark (online).

Websites: to identify Native American trees

Beautify – September 2018

The Benefits of Garden Walks

by Cheryl Gross and Michele Worden, AEMGs

Garden walks offer several important benefits to attendees and the community.  For many Garden Clubs a Garden Walk represents a significant amount of their funding each year.  Most, if not all, of the Garden Walk proceeds are returned to the community through public beautification at public parks, Libraries, schools, and more.  Some Garden Clubs provide grants for special garden projects. For attendees it is an opportunity to see how other gardeners view gardening for beautification, food production, outside living, and more.  Many attendees come away inspired with fresh ideas for their own yard. If nothing else, ticket holders spend a few hours in the garden stopping to smell the roses.

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

Beautify – May 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

On The Radar:  May

Creating a Monarch Butterfly Waystation

A Walk Through Two Gardens

Blooming annuals

On The Radar:  May

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

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.

Monarch habitat

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 plants to 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.

Native plants

Plants that attract monarch butterflies to gardens:

Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) – An early milkweed variety.  Shorter species.  Good for garden borders.

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9

Height 1 to 2.5 feet

Bloom time May-July

Purple and green blooms also attract other pollinators

Plant in full sun, drought tolerant

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – Low maintenance plant with fragrant purple flowers. Has subtle onion flavor.  Can be used in cooking.

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9

Height 1 to 2 feet

Bloom time April-June

Showy purple blooms on green stalks

Plant in full sun

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) – Thrives in moist soils and ponds    

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-4

Height 3 to 4 feet

Bloom time June-October

Fragrant pink flowers

Plant in full sun

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – Long lasting clusters of orange flowers. Grows well in poor, dry soil.

Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9

Height 2 to 3 feet

Bloom time June-August

Bright orange flowers

Plant in full sun, drought resistant

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.

Once certified, your habitat will be added to the Monarch Watch Registry found at

You can also purchase an official Monarch Waystation sign to install in your garden by clicking here.  


Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Missouri Department of Conservation, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Monarch Butterfly Garden, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Monarch Butterfly Migration, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

Monarch Waystation Program, Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.

photo by AEMG Nancy Denison

A Walk Through Two Gardens

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.

Beautify – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Botanic Garden Update

MGANM Meeting, February 6, 2018

December in the Garden by Steve Tavener

Botanic Garden Update

by Terry Harding, Community Gardener

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 (,, an app called INaturalist and the book Fern Finder by Barbara Hallowell.  

Thanks to Angie for an enlightening evening!


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