Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

May 2010

Geranium hanging basket

Millions of geranium (Pelargonium) baskets will be purchased this weekend to honor Mom, and to adorn decks and patios everywhere. Now you have another good reason to purchase these colorful flowers. Researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service report that the brightly hued petals of this landscape staple are deadly to Japanese beetles. More accurately, after eating geranium petals, the beetles become paralyzed for several hours. In the lab, the beetles recovered after 24 hours, but presumably in nature, paralyzed beetles would be easy pickings for birds or other predators who would devour the pests before they could revive.

Japanese beetle

Researchers provide no indication of how to force feed geraniums to Japanese beetles. However, if your yard has ever been infested with them, you know that the beetles are not picky–they’ll eat hundreds of types of plants. Admittedly, geraniums in the garden won’t likely keep Japanese beetles at bay in your yard, but they certainly can’t hurt. The ultimate goal of the scientists is to develop a natural botanical control for the pests derived from floral extracts of the geranium.

In the meantime, you can buy geraniums for Mom this weekend and know that they’ll be safe from attack by Japanese beetles.

Friday May 7th is a special day — it’s the first time this season the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden will be open to the public! It’s also National Public Gardens Day — a day to celebrate gardens around the the country.

In honor of it, the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden will have extended hours: Come walk through and see the sights from 12.00 to 4.00 p.m. (Normally the Test Garden is open Fridays from 12.00 to 2.00 p.m.)

Sandra Gerdes, the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden manager will be on hand to answer questions about the hundreds of flowering plants you can see in the Test Garden, including ‘Pink Impression’ tulips, which are looking particularly glorious right now. And if you have a shady spot in your yard, don’t miss the hostas and and stunning blue brunnera — both are in their prime!

If you stop by, be sure to ask Sandra about ‘Clarence’ the tall-bearded iris!

I try to mix edibles in with ornamentals as much as I can. Of course, not every edible is the kind of plant you want in the middle of your nice flower bed. A large tomato vine in a tomatoe cage is NOT a nice addition to the flower garden. But many edibles are quite attractive, and one of the better ones is rhubarb. It’s a fairly robust perennial, with enormous leaves and an interesting flower stalk in emerges in spring—gigantic, just like the leaves.

Rhubarb is one of those things you can’t just pick and eat; you have to know what to do with it. My wife makes an outstanding rhubarb/strawberry recipe, so I’m fortunate—all I have to  do is grow the stuff, which isn’t all that hard. Although you can harvest only once or twice a year, you can freeze the stems for later use. So try some rhubarb—it’s a good one for the perennial border, and it’s hardy to Zone 3, so you can grow it darn near anywhere (though it may not work so well in Zone 10).

These plants below came from Bonnie, which supplies many of the big box stores. So it’s not an exotic, hard-to-find plant. Make some space for one in your garden. You’ll love how it looks.

Rhubarb early in spring, with funky red buds.

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