Posts by Everyday Gardeners

Everyday Gardeners

Love a Tree Day

Today’s post is in honor of Love a Tree Day, which happens on May 16th every year. (Who knew?) I would write about my favorite tree, but that’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I have dozens of favorites.

With ash trees under attack by emerald ash borer, American elms barely hanging on against Dutch elm disease, and American chestnuts all but wiped out by chestnut blight, I feel that it’s important to create diversity by planting a wide variety of trees.

I’ve taken that to heart in my own landscape. On my half-acre lot I have planted the following trees: a callery pear, a serviceberry, five Alberta spruces, three Austrian pines, three Eastern white pines, a sweetbay magnolia, a Japanese tree lilac, a goldenrain tree, five arborvitaes, eight upright junipers, a dawn redwood, a Vanderwolf limber pine, a black gum, a blue Colorado spruce, a red maple, a weeping European beech, an Eastern redbud, a shingle oak, a ginkgo, a Swiss stone pine, a kousa dogwood, and I’ve allowed a squirrel-seeded bur oak to grow in one of the perennial beds.

This doesn’t even count the trees growing in containers: two Meyer lemons, a Valencia orange, an Oroblanco grapefruit, two bay laurels, and various dwarf conifers.

I’ll admit to punishing several “problem children”. Self-seeded cottonwoods, hackberries, chokecherries, box elders, and willows are removed from my flowerbeds where they all too often take root. I also dig out sprouting black walnuts that the ambitious squirrels bury in the planting beds.

After six years of planting, I think that my lot is about full enough of trees. I still want sunny areas for growing veggies and sun-loving flowers. So from now on, new trees will have to be dwarf. I’m envisioning dwarf conifers in a new rock garden…..


Everyday Gardeners

mother’s day ferns

Athyrium niponicum 'Burgundy Lace', Japanese painted fern

As a tribute to my mother and Mother’s Day, today’s blog post is about ferns. It’s not that ferns were a favorite flower of my mother. In fact, she grew only a few flowers, and they had to be tough and easy to care for like bearded iris, peony, self-seeding petunias, and zinnias, from which she saved seed each year.

No, the topic of ferns is appropriate because that was my mother’s name. (You might say that I was destined to become a horticulturist with a mother by that name. But none of my five siblings went into plant-related careers, although they all are gardeners to some degree.) In many ways, ferns remind me of Mom. They’re unassuming and hard-working, providing beauty and backup support for other stars in the shade garden. They may look delicate, but they survive or even thrive in tough conditions.

One of my favorite ferns is Japanese painted fern, pictured above. With its silver and burgundy tinged fronds, it’s showier than many other ferns. It makes a lovely low-growing groundcover in moist shade. I’m quite sure that Mom never wore any burgundy lace, but she always brought out Grandma Schrock’s hand-crocheted lace tablecloth when we entertained.

Another favorite of mine is cinnamon fern with its reddish brown spore-bearing fronds. Mom wasn’t a heavy user of spices (Dad didn’t like his food spicy.), but cinnamon was a staple in the pantry. Cinnamon toast was a great way to start the day.

Ostrich fern, whose fiddleheads unfurl this time of year in woodland gardens, is featured in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. If you’re in Des Moines, stop by the garden on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. to see them–and everything else that is in bloom. The garden officially opens for the season on May 6, 2011, which is National Public Gardens Day. If you can’t make it to Des Moines, visit a public garden near you.

Mom is no longer with us, but her legacy lives on in her six children, 15 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren.

Osmunda cinnamomea, Cinnamon fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris, ostrich fern


Everyday Gardeners

pick of the crop: get ready for Earth Day

Here are some reading selections to get you ready for Earth Day.

The Chicago Tribune points out that one way to celebrate Earth Day is by eating leftovers.

The Chronicle Herald in Nova Scotia urges everyone to go for a bike ride, take a walk, or learn to garden for Earth Day.

And what better way to celebrate Mother Earth, than to plant a garden for kids.

In this English class, all the world’s a garden.

Sometimes the Earth can provide it’s own solutions, as when earthworms become a big help in the garden.

In an item not related to Earth Day, it looks like pruning in the wrong place could turn out to be a felony.

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Everyday Gardeners

tulip get-together

Garden manager Sandra Gerdes has some eye-popping tulip-and-other-stuff combinations going right now in the Better Homes and Gardens® Test Garden in Des Moines. What’s great about these is each has an “I could do this” quality. Let’s look at just a few of them.

Ballade tulip and narcissus

Ballade tulip and narcissus

Here, she’s staged the pink and white tulip ‘Ballade’ in front of a clump of ‘Geranium’ daffodils. The pink of the tulips jumps while their white petal tips and yellow centers blend with the colors of the narcissus.

Bleeding heart and tulips

Bleeding heart and tulips

This spectacular grouping catches everyone’s eye. ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding hearts pair with ‘Apricot Impression’ tulips for a blaze of color.

Tulips and hosta

Tulips and hosta

‘Apricot Impression’ figures heavily in this combination too. This time the tulips – just a foot or so away from the previous pairing – join up with their ‘Pink Impression’ cousins and the new-grown foliage of an early hosta.

Tulip and brunnera

Tulip and brunnera

This ‘Fringed Elegance’ tulip keeps complementary company with ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera. The tulip’s long, springy stem holds the lemon-sorbet blossom above the blue of the brunnera, waving at garden visitors to “look at me.”

Tulip and ajuga

Tulip and ajuga

One of the Better Homes and Gardens garden editors’ new spring favorites is this ‘Henry Hudson’ tulip. Here, Sandra has paired the tulip that holds orange-red blossoms only inches above its leaves with the low-growing groundcover ajuga.

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Everyday Gardeners

Polar Joy to the World!

Cold-climate rose fans, take heart. Bailey Nurseries has a welcome surprise for you: an ever-blooming tree rose that can stand up to harsh winters in Zones 4 and 5.

First Editions Polar Joy is the newest innovation to come from Bailey’s award-winning rose breeding program and was developed specifically for Northern gardeners. “We’ve tested these roses through three Minnesota winters and they perform beautifully year after year,” says Pat Bailey, VP of sales and marketing for Bailey. “They’re as easy to grow as any other tree or shrub.”

Polar Joy offers soft pink blossoms all summer long atop a 3–6-foot stems. It can be used as a vertical accent among low-growing companions, and it is adaptable to being planted in the ground or in a container.

Jonathan Pedersen, marketing manager for Bailey, says upright plants such as Polar Joy are a sign of things to come. “As landscape space in a typical homeowner’s yard decreases, you’re going to see more and more vertical plants coming to market,” he says.

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Everyday Gardeners

Saving Heirloom Apples

It’s ironic, but heirloom apples are becoming endangered at the very same time they’re regaining popularity.

That’s why the RAFT alliance (an acronym for Renewing America’s Food Traditions) has christened 2010 as “Year of the Heirloom Apple.” Their hope is to earmark at least 90 endangered apple varieties in each region for recovery so they can once again be grown in orchards and backyards.

How severly have heirloom apples declined in America the past century? RAFT provides these telling statistics:

• Of the 15,000 to 16,000 apple varieties named, grown and eaten in North American, only about 3,000 remain accessible through nurseries.

• Roughly nine out of ten apple varieties historically grown in the U.S. are at risk of falling out of cultivation and falling off our tables.

•  One variety, Red Delicious, now comprises 41 percent of the entire American apple crop.

• Eleven common varieties comprise 90 percent of all apples sold in chain grocery stores.

• Much of the apple juice, puree and sauce consumed in the U.S. are now produced in other countries.

•  As the overall number of apple trees in cultivation declines to a fourth of what it was a century ago, the number of apple varieties considered threatened or endangered has peaked at 94 percent.

A key component of RAFT’s apple initiative is release of The Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto – APPLES, a brochure that builds upon the collective knowledge of more than a dozen of America’s most experienced heirloom apple experts. The brochure is now available as a free download here.

To find out ways you can support and celebrate the Year of the Heirloom Apple, click here.

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