Friday, July 22, 2011

Twist-n-Shout Hydrangea

I decided to plant a new Big Leaf Hydrangea earlier this month, the new Twist-n-Shout. It is pH sensitive so I will have to work hard to keep the soil slightly acidic, but I don't mind. I like the plants leaf color, which is supposed to turn burgundy red in the fall, and the interesting flower heads.

To help the plant survive the first winter here in Minnesota, make sure to keep watering the plant until the ground is frozen. Also, place four inches of mulch over the plant to protect it, usually sometime in November (or as I say, before the first snow). In the Spring, when the ground has thawed, remove the mulch so the sun can kick start new growth!  Flowers bloom on new and old growth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Swamp Milkweed

Of the three Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants I grew from seed last year, one has bloomed this summer. The other two were molested by rabbits and while they are growing again, I doubt they will have time to bloom this year. A few weeks ago I wrote about the monarch caterpillar I found on the plant, eating its fill.

This plant loves a moist area of the garden. Originally I planted Butterly Weed in this spot, but it was too wet and kept failing. Looks like Swamp Milkweed is much happier in this location. It is pretty difficult to find the plant in local garden centers, but I did find some at Linder's in Saint Paul a few weeks ago. Otherwise, you will have to grow from seed like me. The pink blossoms on the plant are quite lovely.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why, Hello There

I pulled up my spinach last week because it was going to seed. As I was pulling up one row, I discovered this tomato plant growing in the middle of the spinach. Since my tomato plants didn't produce anything last year, I guess this volunteer decided to wait and give me hope this year. This week it has some flowers on it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catmint "Walker's Low"

I just love this catmint. It is easy to grow, doesn't self seed, and if you cut it back after the first bloom, you will get a repeat of blooms in late summer. Needing full sun and good to Zone 4, this plant has beautiful blue and lavender flowers.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You Never Know if Something is Dead

It just goes to show you that you never know when a plant is truly dead. Take for instance the Butterfly Weed pictured above. I planted it last year along with two other plants, an extra from the Friends Plant Sale, because I don't like to waste good plants. All three seemed to disappear by early fall and it didn't seem like they were coming back this spring.

You can only imagine my surprise when I walked out one day to see two of the plants sticking out of the ground. It was like they grew five inches over night.  I had a few of these planted in a different location, but none of them ever survived as it was just too wet. Hopefully these hang in there and give me a good display.

So my best advice is to wait a little bit longer if you think a plant is dead, maybe even another season, as you could discover that the only thing wrong is that the plant prefers a later bloom time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Peonies in My Garden

I have 12 Peony plants in my garden which sounds like a lot, but I love the plant so much I want more. Six of them I bought from Klehm's Song Sparrow three years ago, four of them are from my mother's garden in Indiana, and the other two I purchased last spring at the Friends School Plant Sale.

Last year a late spring frost killed all the buds so I babied them this year to make sure the same thing didn't happen. Six of the twelve bloomed this year (the ones from Klehms are still "young"). Here are the five I was able to photograph. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt has the strongest fragrance...really nice!

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Pastel Sunrise

Burma Joy

Coral Charm

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monarch Caterpillar in My Garden


One of my garden project goals has been to buy plants that attract butterflies, so I have planted plenty of them in my yard. But I want Monarchs! So I did some research and learned that you need to also have plants that attract butterflies to lay their eggs on, so their kids have something to eat too. Monarchs only lay their eggs on Milkweed plants as it contains a mild toxin that protects the caterpillars from predators, making them poisonous to eat.

Since I have not been able to find one single Garden Center in the Twin Cities that sells Milkweed, I decided to grow my own last year from seed. In late Spring this year, I was rewarded with new plants emerging (they survived the winter!). Much to my surprise and joy, a week ago I found this little guy (a Monarch caterpillar) eating away my Milkweed leaves. I don't mind...that's what they're there for!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pretty Yellow Swamp Buttercup Wildflower

Taking photos of flowers is something I love to do. I have a Macro lens which helps me capture great photos. The trick to flower shots is using a tripod, getting really low to the ground sometimes, and not having any wind. You can also get some great images after a rain, like I did with this Swamp Buttercup wildflower I found this Spring. It was a light drizzle in the park, so the trees gave me some good shelter. This Minnesota wildflower likes it wet so it can be found around streams, waterfalls, and swampy areas.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wild Geranium

The Wild Geraniums found along Minnesota trails and paths are starting to wane,but are very beautiful in mass. This little bug was so nice to pose for the picture.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Exchanging a Dead Bush at Bachman's

Last spring I planted a Hydrangea "Invinicebelle Spirit", a pink version of "Annabelle". It's a new shrub that I thought I would try out...I like different/new things in my yard. This spring, the below picture shows you what was left of the plant. Surprisingly, it didn't survive as these new Hydrangea shrubs are suppose to be hardy to Zone 3. I had a sneaky suspicion before winter came that it was already on its last leg, so I called Bachman's to verify their return policy on failed plants.

I was told to bring in my receipt (which of course I did not have), or to bring in the Bachman's plant tag that had been attached to the shrub. Now this is not the official plant tag that is all pretty, but is a long white tag with Bachman's logo on it, as well as the date of the plant. I always keep my tags, so I took this into the Apple Valley Bachman's two weeks ago.

I walked out with a new replacement plant, no hassle at all! Here it is planted in my yard. Hopefully this one survives, or it is adios to "Invincibelle".

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Early Meadow Rue - Minnesota Wildflower

Early Meadow Rue

This is one of the most interesting wildflowers I have seen the past few years, and is surprisingly part of the Buttercup family. It is small, delicate, and easy to overlook when out hiking in the woods. As the flowers age the thread parts that hold the handing stamens turn red (seen in this photo I took last year). It likes moist and shady areas in the woods.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Plant Loss due to Rot

The one thing that has been really hard for me living in Minnesota is accepting the poor soil conditions I face in my yard, aka. lots of clay. I grew up in Southern Indiana where I could go out in anywhere in my yard, throw a shovel in the ground, and come up with nothing but beautiful black earth. Here in Minnesota, if I do the same thing, I might get a half foot of dirt (and it's not black) before I hit gray clay.

I have tried mixing in new top soil when I can, but I can only dig so deep before I need a backhoe and a dump truck to haul it all out. Don't have the funds for that. So what I am left with is battling my soil conditions and planting what I think might survive in a area. Of course light conditions play heavily on what I plant where.

So far this spring I have lost some plants to rot:
  • Two Coneflowers
  • Two Coreopsis
  • One Foxglove
  • Hydrangea Bush
  • Iris
Even plants that say they except poor soil conditions have not survived. For instance, for three seasons I have planted Echinops Rito or Globe Thistle, but it never comes back. I have even tried different locations. For plants that say full sun, even those fail sometimes in clay soil. I have planted Butterfly Weed in three different locations - all have failed. But last year I grew my own Swamp Milkweed from seed and planted them in a bed that gets more moisture than the others, and I am happy to report some new shoots are coming up this week. Hopefully this will continue to survive and attract more Monarchs to the garden.

So I am left every spring wondering what will come back and what won't. Hopefully this summer won't be as wet as 2010 because loss due to rot comes down to one thing, how wet is your garden?

What have been your experiences battling the heavy clay soil of Minnesota?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daffodils in the Garden

Each year I add new bulbs to the garden, but can never remember what type they are until they bloom. Here are some of the daffodil types I have in the flower beds. I took photos of the beds this year so I can remember where the daffodils are in relation to the tulips so I can plant accordingly. I think that my favorite daffodil I have planted so far is the "Tahiti" variety (show in the lower right of the photo above).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Potting Tuberous Begonias

About three years ago I started over wintering my begonias as I hated to throw them away, only to spend money on getting new ones the next spring. I read up on how to do it and it is pretty simple. Three of the four above I have had three years now, and the smaller one was given to me by my mother-in-law.

I started them late this year (oops). They take a while to get started so usually I have them potted by the end of February or early March, but couldn't get to them until the end of April. Of course it is too cold in those months, so I sit them in a sunny location in my house and wait for them to start growing.

Pot them so the top of the tuber is at the soil line. Potting them below could lead to water pooling in the top and rotting out the tuber. If you leave a little bit of the stem from last year, you can easily tell which end is up. Below is a picture of one of them sitting in a pot, without the soil completely around it so you can make out the shape of the tuber. I added just enough soil to barely cover, then watered and set outside on nice sunny days. Once the weather warms up more, they'll grow more quickly.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Yellow Blooms of Forsythia Tell You Spring is Here

Last year I planted a Forsythia "Meadow Lark" and was glad to see it blooming the past two weeks. The blooms only grow on old wood so it is important to do any pruning of the bush right after it blooms. If you wait to till fall, you risk cutting off all of the new growth which would bloom the next spring.

I researched the various types of Forsythia and decided on this bush because it grows rather quickly, has a height of 8-10 feet, and has a spreading/arching form. I wanted a specimen plant on the back corner of my house, but didn't want to go with a tree (like a Crab Apple) so close to the foundation. It doesn't look like much now, but in a couple of years, it will be stunning!

Below is a photo I took last spring of a Forsythia bush in Wisconsin:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Flowers at Bachman's

With Spring taking its sweet time this year, I just had to stop by Bachman's to see the lovely flowers, these being trays of Pansies. It took a lot of self control to not walk out with a bunch of them. My husband would not have been happy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Guide to Identifying Spring Bulbs

It's a long time between Fall and Spring, so it is quite common to forget where you might have planted all those flower bulbs once the snow melts. Of course some of the emerging flowers below aren't bulbs, but they still come up earlier than most other perennial plants. Below are some photos I took this month of early spring plants in case you wonder what is happening in your garden.



When I first started gardening, I could never remember the difference between daffodils and tulips. From the above two photos, you can easily see the difference. Tulips have pointed leaves, daffodils have rounded leaves. My tulips also have a red shade to the leaves.

Above is an emerging Hyacinth. The leaves stay tight and wrapped like this until they get pretty high out of the ground. Once out, the fragrance is amazing!

The best way to identify an emerging Iris is to look at the fan shape of the leaves.

Probably one of my favorite bulbs that I wish would last longer. The larger alliums, like the one above, look like a pointed triangle when they first emerge. I have daffodils planted next to them, so the points of the allium make it easy to differentiate the two.

Yes, peonies are not bulbs, but they do start to come up early (and I love them). The are quite noticeable in the garden with their red arms sticking out of the ground. They are classified as either early, mid, or late varieties.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Como Conservatory Winter Flower Show

The Como Conservatory in St. Paul has a flower show each season with different blooming plants. I visited the last few days of the Winter Show just as the lilies above were blooming.

Of course all the Fox Gloves that were blooming made me wish the snow would melt so the Fox Gloves I planted last year can have a chance.