October Gardening Chores

Lots of bulbs to plant this fall, they started in Missouri and are back for a short stay.

Lots of bulbs to plant this fall, they started in Missouri and are back for a short stay.

October Gardening Chores

This is one of the gardening chores I don’t look forward to, deciding what potted plants come inside for winter. Early in the month it’s time to start pruning and checking for any hitchhikers that may be inadvertently coming inside, too. Welcome to fall, and the gardening chores associated with putting a garden to bed for winter.

To cut down on leaf drop, bring in plants a month before turning on the heat. I tend to wait until a couple of days before hard frost is in the forecast to give my plants as much time outside as possible. Then I have to sweep up dropped leaves for weeks afterwards so don’t do what I do if you don’t like messy plants.

For single plants in separate plants, consider combining them, watering well and the bringing them inside. Even if they only last for a couple of months, they will help to extend the growing season a little longer. Do I sound like I miss my garden over winter? You bet, it's why my house looks like a little jungle mid-January.

If you haven’t been, you need to water. Perennials, evergreens and azaleas need one inch of water a week and we are sorely behind the average. Water with the hose in the ground so the water gets to the roots. Keep watering until our first hard frost. For USDA zone 5d, that is usually around Halloween.

If you have been fertilizing, no more. Also this is not the time to prune anything, wait until January after the plants are dormant.

If you haven’t cleaned up flower beds of spent plants, here’s your last chance to gather seeds. Birds will take the rest after frost. Leave the rest to clean up in spring. By then, most of the greenery will have broken down and become part of the garden mulch.

Last call to bring in fresh herbs: basil, rosemary, parsley, chives and stevia will also easily transition to a sunny, inside window in pots.

Geraniums, coleus, wax begonias, impatiens all will winter over inside if you keep them pinched and bushy. Geraniums will winter over stored in brown bags without soil. Really. I didn’t believe it until I tried it one year. I still prefer to bring them in still in pots so I can coax them to bloom through winter. So hardy, they will, too!

Time to get spring bulbs into the ground. Add a little bone meal at the bottom of the hole to slowly feed the bulbs. Plant bulbs close together if you don’t mind digging them up to separate in a couple of years. If you would rather not, give them some space in between. Mark where you planted them.

Dry leaves help to hold in moisture in flower beds so I layer mine with layers of fall leaves followed by winter mulch after the first frost. Right now I am adding the leaf layer. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Dry leaves help to hold in moisture in flower beds so I layer mine with layers of fall leaves followed by winter mulch after the first frost. Right now I am adding the leaf layer. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Leave the falling leaves where they are. If you are worried about your grass, run the mower over them. Leaves return Nitrogen to the soil and make a wonderful amendment to flower beds and help retain moisture. I started planting perennials this summer with holes lined with wet, dry leaves. Worked beautifully!

Charlotte

A Garden of Mums

Mums are the main flowers in this charming garden in my hometown.

Mums are the main flowers in this charming garden in my hometown.

A Garden of Mums

When I think of autumn, I think of hot apple cider, fall leaves, sweaters - ok, the list of things I still need to get done before it gets cold - and mums. Chrysanthemums, one of the longest lasting cut flowers there are have become a fall garden staple where I live.

Chrysanthemums are also the foundation for most of the "safe" bug sprays on the market. Pyrethrum, derived from the Pyrethrum daisy, is not so much safe as it is less harmful than other bug sprays on the market. It should be used only as a last resort and kept away from fish and water sources.

So it was with mixed emotions that I accepted several mum plants. I want pollinators coming to my garden, not getting discouraged from visiting. A quick check and it was good, mums repel roaches, ants, Japanese beetles, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs and spider mites. Nothing about butterflies and bees.

Shortly afterwards, I was driving around town and saw this charming garden - can you count how many mums it has?

A variety of chrysanthemum colors stand out against the grey of the tree trunk.

A variety of chrysanthemum colors stand out against the grey of the tree trunk.

Impatiens are in the back, adding color but the front of this garden is definitely mum-dominant.

On the right side, a nice combination of mums and impatiens, both adding more color to this front porch.

Love the size of these white chrysanthemums, they remind me of a snowdrift!

Love the size of these white chrysanthemums, they remind me of a snowdrift!

When I got home, I walked through my garden to see what mums were blooming. I have several starts that are small and two mums taking over a garden corner where ground cover roses were blooming earlier. One little rose was still peeking through, a last nod to summer.

See the little pink rose in between the two mums?

See the little pink rose in between the two mums?

My mums will never grow as big as those in that charming garden because they have real soil to grown in. My mums are tucked into rock crevices and soil pockets on my hillside but I still enjoy the pop of color they give my fall garden, even if its only a small pop.

Charlotte

Painted Ladies Migration

GC Painted Ladies Migration 2.jpg

Painted Ladies Migration

Did you know that painted ladies butterflies are migrating in record numbers this year? Me, neither although I suspected something was up when I spotted a kaleidoscope of painted ladies on my Autumn Joy Sedum plants early September. About the same time, several readers emailed me photos of butterflies they thought were Monarchs. Easy to confuse the two since both Monarch butterflies and painted ladies are orange and black.

According to Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch, based at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, this is “the largest migration of painted ladies” he has seen in “more than 30 or 35 years.”

The migrants start as far north as southern Canada and travel to northern Mexico and Texas. It will take five or six generations to make the trip and return.

“Painted lady migrations leave a trail of dead bodies as they move across the country,” Taylor said.

Monarch butterflies, on the other hand, will live six to nine months after they become adults. The same individual will make the trip to their winter grounds in Mexico and back.

“No painted lady makes a two-way migration,” Taylor said.

Painted ladies are the most widely dispersed butterfly species, observed on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. It’s the species most commonly raised in classrooms.

Painted ladies often are mistaken for monarchs. Monarchs have white dots on black bodies and the orange and black pattern is sharp and clear. Painted ladies have brown bodies and the pattern on their wings is not as delineated.

Both take about a month to become adults, but painted ladies seem to live only two or three more weeks. Both Monarchs and painted ladies are seen feeding on many of the same flowers.

How many Painted ladies butterflies do you see on this Autumn Joy Sedum? There are a couple of honeybees, too!

How many Painted ladies butterflies do you see on this Autumn Joy Sedum? There are a couple of honeybees, too!

Taylor said painted ladies have been feeding on thistle, sunflowers and soybeans. In my garden, they were also on Autumn Joy Sedum and New England Asters. Unlike monarchs, painted ladies can be found on the ground while migrating.

The week prior, a number of Monarch butterflies had landed on the same Autumn Joy Sedum plants, the first time in several years that I had seen so many Monarchs at one time. As a certified Monarch Way Station, it was exciting to see the numbers of butterflies on the increase in my garden.

Each fall, hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to overwintering areas in Mexico and California. That’s where they winter untilconditions favor a return flight in the spring. The monarch migration is truly one of the world's greatest natural wonders, to think butterflies leave and several successive generations later, they arrive at their destination.

However, habitat loss continues to threaten their ability to make this amazing journey across North America both this time of year and throughout the spring and summer breeding range. Monarch Way Stations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs and other butterflies to migrate.

To become a certified Monarch Way Station, and to see what kinds of plants and other resources you should have in your garden to help pollinators, visit monarchwatch.org.

Charlotte

Best Place for Native Seedlings

This flowering dogwood was a seedling given away several years ago at a local hardware store for National Arbor Day. I didn’t count on the nearby bridal veil overtaking the seedling so give your seedlings plenty of room to grow. By purchasing from George O. White State Nursery, you know you are getting the native species as opposed to hybridized species.

This flowering dogwood was a seedling given away several years ago at a local hardware store for National Arbor Day. I didn’t count on the nearby bridal veil overtaking the seedling so give your seedlings plenty of room to grow. By purchasing from George O. White State Nursery, you know you are getting the native species as opposed to hybridized species.

Best Place for Native Seedlings

Ever been given a free redbud or dogwood during Earth Day or Arbor Day? Most likely those tree seedlings were purchased from this unique nursery. I am going out on a limb here, as they like to say, but there is no better place to get Missouri native tree and shrub seedlings than George O. White State Nursery in Licking, Missouri.

The nursery was started by my former employer, USDA Forest Service, to raise native species to restore Missouri’s national forest in the 1930s. Overgrazing, over-cutting and over hunting of Missouri’s forests depleted or exterminated many of the species we take for granted today – wild turkey, river otters, ruffed grouse, even deer, not to mention the millions of trees and shrubs that provide wildlife food and cover.

To restore the wildlife populations, millions of native trees and shrubs were required. It was the mission of George O. White, a US Forest Service forester, to establish the nursery in Texas County.

According to Missouri Department of Conservation, “As a Forest Service employee, White helped establish and operate the nursery. He would go on to organize and direct the Department’s first forestry program, and he became Missouri’s longest-tenured state forester, serving for 21 years. In 1960, the Department renamed the state nursery and dedicated it in honor of White’s commitment to Missouri’s forests and forestry efforts.”

Today the nursery sells off their extra stock to the public in the fall. In the past, the sale started Nov. 1, about the time all of the fall leaves were on the ground, but this year, it was pushed up two months to Sept. 1.

The seedlings are not available for pick up, and shipping, until February but some of the stock sells out fast; ninebark, witch hazel and elderberries often sell out quickly. If the order is not paid for, the stock may be offered back up for sale at the time the plants are scheduled for shipping but I try not to wait too long after the ordering window is open to place my order.

The prices are hard to beat. Not including sales taxes and an $8 handling charge, seedlings can range from 32 cents to 80 cents, depending on how many seedlings you buy, usually in bundles of 10, 25 or 100.

Once you have the seedlings, it’s best to get them in water to keep them hydrated. They can also be wrapped in wet newspapers and placed in plastic bags to keep the roots moist. Phelps County Master Gardeners bought 100 flowering dogwoods for giveaways at the 1st annual spring Growing Green Fair in 2013, wrapped them in wet newspapers and nicely kept them hydrated before the event so I know this works.

The George O. White Nursery catalog is a great free reference for how to plant the seedlings including an easy chart of various land uses. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The George O. White Nursery catalog is a great free reference for how to plant the seedlings including an easy chart of various land uses. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

They also offer a wonderful color catalog that provides details on how best to use the various species. A copy was available in Missouri Department of Conservation’s September magazine and you can call the nursery and ask them to mail you one.

You can also download a copy of the catalog here: https://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/SeedlingOrderForm.pdf

Don’t want 10 of one species? Talk to your friends and consolidate an order, that way you don’t end up with too many plants and too little space to plant them.

Charlotte

A Good Gardening Friend

Some of the tossed mum plants Tom shared with me. They look a little down but they are not out!

Some of the tossed mum plants Tom shared with me. They look a little down but they are not out!

A Good Gardening Friend

Every gardener should have a friend like my friend Tom. If it's possible, Tom is even more of a dedicated gardener than I am. He's out in his garden even in bad weather, which is where I draw the line. If I have to wade through snow or ice, I pass. Rain is fifty-fifty, depends on what I need to get one. Sometimes I like to plant just before a rain, other times right after one. I am gardening in the Ozarks so anything that softens up the soil, besides a pick ax, is very welcome.

Tom has been gardening for four years and has created a wonderful garden on his family property. I love to visit to see what new area he has developed, or what new plants may be blooming. He has a corner of his garden he has named after me, and I have a spot in my garden that I named after him. I told him that officially makes us gardening buddies.

So it was great anticipation that I waited for him to drop off "something that will keep you busy." Next thing I know, he's splitting his stash of mums, great big plants someone had tossed after full bloom, plants that still have a lot of life still in them in my favorite color, yellow.

Mums can be planted late into fall. As long as the roots are kept moist through winter, they should establish themselves and come back on their own for a number of years. The other advantage of mums is that they are natural bug repellers, although my bees seem to disregard that and still visit to check on available pollen.

I have split plants with Tom in the past; a stash of iris from another friend comes to mind but who is counting. When I had a chance to dig up a garden earlier spring, Tom was the one I called when I realized I couldn't dig it up by myself. And yes, we split whatever we dug up for the day.

Now excuse me, I have some mums to plant before it starts to snow.

Charlotte

 

Missing Impatiens

All of a sudden, the impatiens bed at the front of my driveway was empty.

All of a sudden, the impatiens bed at the front of my driveway was empty.

Missing Impatiens

I was taking my usual morning stroll through my garden when I was startled to see the flower bed at the front of my driveway empty. Well, not exactly empty, more like missing the sweet impatiens that spent summer there. 

Of all of the flowers beds I have, I spend a little extra effort on this one because it is the entrance to my property. When I was working full time away from home, it was a wonderful sight as I came home to be welcomed by this little splurge of color.

A lovely little stash of pink tulips used to pop up in spring in this spot, until my local deer family decided to have the tulips for a snack. They pulled up the greenery and bulbs and I haven't replaced them yet.

Pink impatiens added color to the flower bed at the entrance to my driveway.

Pink impatiens added color to the flower bed at the entrance to my driveway.

This is how the flower bed looked earlier this summer. The impatiens were added a little late in the season because I bought them on deep markdown. I wasn't sure they would be happy in this flower bed but for the price I thought it was worth a try.

The flower bed received more sun than the traditional impatiens liked. The increased sun kept their size small, which was perfect for the space they had in the flower bed. They would probably do better with less sun on the north side of the property.

Pink impatiens flowers.

So pretty, and they added a nice and much-needed splurge of color.

So what happened?

The first frost of the season got to the impatiens before I dug them up and moved them inside in a pot. I can just hear a friend saying to me "you can't save all of the plants" but I like having flowers blooming inside. I also usually manage to pull impatiens through winter in pots so not getting to these in time was a double loss.

Now I need to patiently wait until next year to add another dab of color to this flower bed. Will be fun to see what strikes my fancy.

Do you try to save annuals inside in pots over winter?

Charlotte

Last Flowers of the Season

These pink and white geraniums were the last blooming flowers from my deck plants.

These pink and white geraniums were the last blooming flowers from my deck plants.

Last Flowers of the Season

The 2016 growing season is over. My tropical deck plants are settled inside, a month earlier than our first cold fall days but then we are once again setting new temperature records as forecast for Missouri. Our rapidly changing climate will give is warmer temperatures and less snowfall, which I will miss now that I'm retired and I can now enjoy those cold conditions without having to go anywhere.

These pink and white geraniums are favorites. The plant has bloomed continuously all summer so I picked the last flowers on the plant as I settled it into its winter spot in a south-facing window. It will bloom again during winter but it may take a few weeks. Yet another reason why I love geraniums, they bloom regularly regardless of the season as long as they get their sun.

As I was walking through my garden, I also found two little pink zinnias still blooming. By themselves, they looked pretty sparse. Added to the geraniums, they made a very pretty flower arrangement on my den coffee table. 

The last zinnias blooming in my garden added to the last blooming geraniums.

The last zinnias blooming in my garden added to the last blooming geraniums.

Isn't this pretty? 

Fresh flowers are a wonderful addition to a room, even simple ones. Combined together, they can make a lovely last flower bouquet of the season.

Charlotte

Don't Bag Those Leaves

Oak leaves falling and covering a path at Bluebird Gardens.

Oak leaves falling and covering a path at Bluebird Gardens.

Don't Bag Those Leaves

What if I told you there is something that will improve what soil you have, easily make new soil and take almost no work to do it?

Good, then stop bagging those leaves. I know some of us want to have immaculate lawns but you are doing your garden a huge disservice by removing those leaves and making extra work for yourself to boot.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, leaves of one large tree can be worth as much as $50 worth of plant food and humus. They are a rich source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and trace minerals tree roots have mined from deep in the subsoil. Pound for pound, leaves contain twice the mineral content of manure.

Leaves are also wonderful soil conditioners. Leaf humus can lighten heavy clay soils, which we have, and increase the moisture retention of dry sandy soils. For those of us who try to garden all four seasons in the Ozarks and primarily grow rocks, leaves are an incredibly available source to easily improve our soils.

I don’t have much soil in my garden on the side of a limestone hill so l have been letting leaves compact and disintegrate for decades. Several years ago, I was curious if my new soil pH was somehow more alkaline than usual. With the help of a soil test through University of Missouri Extension, I can confirm my leaf-based soil is right smack dab in the middle, where it should be.

Leaves also make ready mulch. After our first hard frost, I literally kick piles of leaves into flower beds with my boots, sometimes dumping bags of leaves from a neighbor’s house. I used to rake leaves onto flower beds but now I have too many plants to safely rake without pulling them out. Frankly kicking them around is much more fun.

Now if I had a lawn mower, I would be tempted to mow over them a few times to speed decomposition. As it is, I pile them on flower beds and watch them disappear by spring so no need to go to the extra effort.

Composters make turning leaves into soil easy.

One thing you can do with leaves is compost. Rake them into piles or enclose them in bins, one of my gardening friends made some very nice compost bins out of recycled pallets. If you have been seduced by a leaf vacuum, many have a shredder that reduces the volume of leaves being inhaled. The broken down leaves also make a very nice mulch layer.

To compost, mix a shovelful of soil in each layer of leaves to introduce helpful microorganisms to the pile. Leaves are high in carbon but low in nitrogen. It helps to add a source of nitrogen like manure or grass clippings to help feed the bacteria that will be doing all the work of breaking down the leaves.

My youngest brother one year bagged leaves in black bags, then promptly forgot about them. When I visited a year later, the leaves had broken down into beautiful leaf compost we spread around his vegetable patch. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

Charlotte

Fall Bulb-Planting Tips

Surprise lily bulbs ready for fall planting.

One of my favorite spring flowers, surprise lilies, ready for fall planting.

 

Fall Bulb-Planting Tips

One of my neighbors waited until January to plant some daffodils and then wondered why they didn't bloom in April.

Some spring bulbs, like tulips and some daffodils, need at least 12 weeks of below freezing temperatures to set their bulbs for blooming so don't wait too long to get bulbs in the ground. This is as much a reminder for me than anyone!

  • So to repeat, if you want to ensure spring bulbs bloom, get them in the ground before the end of November.
  • No need to buy special bulb-planting tools. Use a small pick ax, good trowel and study pair of gardening gloves.
  • Loosen the soil around the edges of the hole so their roots have an easier time of growing. 
  • Add bone meal, compost or even a handful of sand from your neighborhood sidewalk. These soil amendments will feed the bulbs and help with root development.
  • Water after planting. The faster you can get the bulbs reaching out to the soil, the faster the bulbs will get a good start.
  • Make sure you know how deep the bulbs need to be planted. If you plant them too shallow, the flowers will fall over. If you plant too deep, flower stems will be too short. Most packages have a guide on the back or ask the person who shared the bulbs with you.
  • Plant bulbs behind plants that will grow later in the season and cover bulb greenery as bulbs collect energy before they die down. And don't mow them down before their leaves turn yellow!
  • Plant bulbs in a spot where you can enjoy them.

Ok now excuse me, I have some bulbs I need to get in the ground.

Charlotte

Re-Blooming New England Asters

New England asters are a favorite fall blooms in my Missouri garden.

New England asters are a favorite fall blooms in my Missouri garden.

Re-Blooming New England Asters

With bees in my garden, I added New England asters this year to make sure they have a continuous pollen source through the four seasons.

These asters are perennials and easy to grow. Some people toss them after they bloom and that's a shame because once established, they provide a nice pop of color between the end of summer flowers and the fall tree displays.

To help extend the aster blooming season, remove the dead flower heads. They are easy to spot, they look like brown flowers.

To remove dead blooms, just carefully pinch the flowers off the stem.

To remove dead blooms, just carefully pinch the flowers off the stem.

Gently pinch the dead flower off the stem. You can start with garden scissors but it is easier to just pinch them.

Once the dead blooms are removed, the plants will generate a second wave of flowers, bringing another hint of blue and purple into your fall garden. 

These asters are blooming again about a month after I removed spent blooms.

These asters are blooming again about a month after I removed spent blooms.

Aren't these beautiful? Well worth the extra effort to keep them blooming.

Aren't these beautiful? Well worth the extra effort to keep them blooming.

New England asters are easy perennials to add to a garden and come in a variety of colors, primarily purples, blues, burgundies and whites. I picked up several on sale. Don't have a clue what color they are, looking forward to next year's fall blooming surprise!

Charlotte

Sugar Maple Trees Fall Peach Colors

Sugar maples turn from a pretty yellow to peachy hues in the fall in Missouri.

Sugar maples turn from a pretty yellow to peachy hues in the fall in Missouri.

Sugar Maple Trees Fall Peach Colors

Living in part of the world with four seasons, fall is one of the prettiest. Trees normally green for at least half of the year take on colors as their leaves start showing their true colors.

Leaves are fascinating solar-powered factories. Leaves contain chlorophyll, which absorbs sunlight and turns carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch. Hidden in those leaves are yellow to orange pigments, which also give carrots and pumpkins their color. 

In fall, changes in daylight and temperature signal trees to stop producing food. Chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible.

One of the most beautiful fall colors are the yellows that turn into peach in sugar maples. I first saw those colors when we lived in southern Illinois. Although there are also sugar maples in Missouri, they stand out as individual specimens in residential neighborhoods.

This sugar maple is just starting to put on its fall colors in Missouri.

This sugar maple is just starting to put on its fall colors in Missouri.

These sugar maples are reaching their peak fall color.

These sugar maples are reaching their peak fall color.

Sugar maple trees can grow up to 30 feet so make sure you have the room on your property before adding them to your landscape.

If you have the room, sugar maples are a wonderful, beautiful addition!

Charlotte

Cat Napping Spot

Boo Boo likes to watch birds in the bird feeder from his favorite perch, a ceramic bird bath.

Boo Boo likes to watch birds in the bird feeder from his favorite perch, a ceramic bird bath.

Cat Napping Spot

This lovely ceramic bird bath used to spend most of the year in my garden, except for winter. Two years ago, I ran out of room in my garage so I snuck the bird bath into my living room to store through the cold months.

I liked seeing it every morning as I bundled up for work, a promise that warmer weather was going to arrive.

I grew up in South America and still struggle with appreciating all of the virtues of winter. I do enjoy some, especially the wearing hats and gloves part. I also like the time to dream about next year's garden, reviewing notes from last year and making new lists for the new year.

One morning as I headed out the door, I did a double-take. There smack dab in the middle of the bird bath was my little Presbyterian cat, Boo Boo Bartholomew. Someone had dumped him in the church's parking lot. He climbed into my car one morning as I was leaving and trying not to run over him. He's been at my house ever since.

And this morning, he was curled up in the bird bath, purring away. I had left a towel on it the night before so he had his own comfortable bedding. The bird bath is right inside the front window where a bird feeder sits, perfect cat entertainment. When I called to him, one paw stretched across the bird bath rim; he kept his eyes closed. He must have been ver-y comfortable.

Cats have a way of making themselves comfortable, don't they. 

So if you have garden decor that needs to winter over, don't overlook bringing it inside and making it part of your home decor, at least for a season. Great way to store them and still enjoy them.

Charlotte

 

Bug-Busting Mums

Chrysanthemums, or mums, not only add color to our fall gardens but help with bug control.

Chrysanthemums, or mums, not only add color to our fall gardens but help with bug control.

Bug-Busting Mums

Do you have a mum in your garden? Have you looked at it closely?

Go ahead, take a peek. I will wait.

What did you see?

Ok, so the flowers are starting to fade on one side. And yes, most of us need to water our mums more than we do. See anything else?

That’s my point, no bugs. Although we tend to only enjoy the beauty of mums in fall, chrysanthemums are the source of a popular bug repellent. When we buy “natural” bug spray with pyrethrins, we are essentially buying “Eau de Mum.”

Mums do not provide insecticidal services simply by growing in our gardens. Their compounds, collectively known as pyrethrins, are only available when freshly plucked flowers are dried and powdered, and their oils then extracted. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, there are currently more than 2,000 registered pesticide products on the market that include pyrethrins.

How Pyrethrins Work on Bugs

Natural pyrethrins are neurotoxins, or contact poisons, which quickly penetrate the insect’s nerve system. A few minutes after application, the insect cannot move or fly away. The natural pyrethrins are swiftly detoxified by enzymes in the insect so some pests will recover. To delay the enzyme action so a lethal dose is assured, manufacturers add organophosphates, carbamates, or synergists.

Synergists enhance the insecticidal activity of the pyrethrins. The synergists also prevent some enzymes from breaking down the pyrethrins, maintaining their efficacy as a bug deterrent.

The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry notes on their website pyrethrum was first recognized as having insecticidal properties around 1800 in Asia and was used to kill ticks and various insects such as fleas and mosquitos.

Six individual chemicals have active insecticidal properties in the pyrethrum extract. These compounds are called pyrethrins. Pyrethrum looks like a tan-colored dust as ground flowers or a syrupy liquid as the crude extract. Pyrethrins are only slightly soluble in water, but they dissolve in organic solvents like alcohol, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and kerosene.

Pyrethrins are often used in household insecticides and products to control insects on pets or livestock. Pyrethrins break down quickly in the environment, especially when exposed to natural sunlight.

Pyrethroids are manufactured chemicals that are very similar in structure to the pyrethrins, but are often more toxic to insects, as well as to mammals, and last longer in the environment than pyrethrins. More than 1,000 synthetic pyrethroids have been developed, but less than a dozen of them are currently used in the United States.

As usual, read the fine print on labels so you know what you are using before you apply it.

Mums are a veritable arsenal against non-welcome bugs: mosquitos, roaches, ants, Japanese beetles, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, spider mites, harlequin bugs and root-knot nematodes. 

Keep mums blooming in fall by pinching off old flowers so new buds form, I pinched this mum about a month ago. You can also pinch mums weekly spring through July 4 to keep their traditional mounded shape.

Keep mums blooming in fall by pinching off old flowers so new buds form, I pinched this mum about a month ago. You can also pinch mums weekly spring through July 4 to keep their traditional mounded shape.

Using Mums in Our Gardens for Pest Control

Planting mums in our gardens can ward off insects. To use mums for pest control, plant them about 1 to 1½ feet from the plants you wish to protect.

If you are more of a linear gardener, plant mums in a row or as a border.

Remember to water your newly-planted mums through winter. Once established, mums are perennials and will keep bugs away for many years to come.

Charlotte

Double Color Tropical Hibiscus

This tropical hibiscus has both red and peach flowers.

Double Color Tropical Hibiscus

Whew, so I wasn't loosing my mind, at least not in this instant. I picked up these tropical hibiscus trees on sale late summer for $5 each. I have two and thought they were a double red color. Not that I don't like the peach color because I do but I thought the tag said these were red.

Tropical hibiscus need to winter over inside. They are originally from central and south America where winters are mild and don't include frost and snow.

Going into our Missouri fall, I kept moving the potted tropical hibiscus plants around my deck because one week there would be red flowers. Another week I would see peach and think, gee, I must have moved the wrong hibiscus plant.

Lovely double peach tropical hibiscus blooms late summer on my deck.

Lovely double peach tropical hibiscus blooms late summer on my deck.

As I was trimming the tropical trees to bring them inside for winter, the secret was revealed. I found both red and peach flowers growing on the same tree in one pot.

I plan to enjoy whatever flowers bloom in the middle of our snowy Missouri winters!

Charlotte

 

 

Halloween Flowers

Last miniature roses of the season join my inside geraniums and Halloween pumpkin candle.

Last miniature roses of the season join my inside geraniums and Halloween pumpkin candle.

Halloween Flowers

It's record warm again this fall in Missouri, a time when in the past we would already be bundling up in coats and getting trick or treaters extra scarves and mittens. Instead, I found myself picking a lovely little bouquet of blooming miniature roses to add to blooming pink geranium flowers in my business office.

I don't worry about whether the flowers will look good together or not, I rarely pick things that don't somehow look good together. When I plopped them down on my coffee table, they looked wonder next to my little ceramic Halloween pumpkin candle holder. I don't use real candles in it any more, I like the little flickering, batter-operated lights that make it look like a candle is inside. So much safer than having a lit candle.

If you still have flowers blooming, take a few minutes to pick a few and bring them inside. They will brighten up your day, I promise!

Charlotte

Halloween Black Spider

Would this black spider scare you??

Would this black spider scare you??

Halloween Black Spider

I'm not fond of being scared but I sure do enjoy some of the Halloween decorations. The easier the better, and if it's creative, even better.

I was driving back from visiting a friend in Dixon, Missouri and chuckled when I spotted this black spider in a field. Sharing a name with a spider, Charlotte in E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, I am not particularly scared of spiders. Actually I find them very fascinating, especially the fall garden spiders I have all around my garden.

I couldn't help but wonder, though, at friends who are not as enamored of these interesting insects as I am. One was sharing a black spider she found in her garden last night at a neighborhood meeting, discussing the different kinds of tarantulas she had seen in her life.

To find a spider this big in one's garden would definitely be startling, if not scary.

So easy to make. A bale of hay, some black moldable plastic pipe and spray paint. Very clever!

Charlotte

 

 

Gorgeous Garlic Chives

Transplanted garlic chives blooming beautifully in my Missouri garden.

Transplanted garlic chives blooming beautifully in my Missouri garden.

Gorgeous Garlic Chives

I don’t mean to brag but I thought I was familiar with most culinary herbs until I found these little bunches of onion-like plants in a neighbor’s garden. Without knowing what they were, I dug up as many as I could and moved them to my garden, planting them along flower borders so I could watch them during the growing season.

So many weeds we have growing in our ditches are herbs that are no longer loved and appreciated. It is a shame since many of them have as much, if not more, health benefits as plants we buy in grocery stores.

Turns out the plants I dug up are garlic chives, a very common herb used in Asian cuisine and quickly developing fans around the rest of the world.

Garlic chives belong to the chive family of onions. The family has two branches, onions and chives. The chive-like leaves add a garlic flavor to any dish, a nice option when one doesn’t have real garlic.

The plants grow about 12-inches high. They prefer a rich moist soil with sun and, once established, easily spread through self-sowing.

The green leaves of garlic chives can be cut and added to salads and dishes.

The green leaves of garlic chives can be cut and added to salads and dishes.

The leaves look like regular chives, only instead of being hollow tubes like regular chives garlic chives are flat. Both seem to grow about the same size.

I have them planted as flower bed border plants, more so that I could see them when they bloomed and I could confirm the identification.

Garlic chives make wonderful border plants.

Garlic chives make wonderful border plants.

Garlic Chives Healthy Benefits

t is interesting to see how herbs were used for medicine. In the case of garlic chives, they allegedly reduce stress and fatigue. Paste of the herb supposedly heals wounds faster and stops bleeding. It was also used in the treatment of liver, kidney and digestion problems.

More to the point, garlic chives can be used in soups, sauces, salads, egg dishes – wherever you like to use garlic but don’t have any available. If for some reason you can’t eat garlic, garlic chives are a good way to add the garlic flavor without any related issues.

Garlic chives are rich in vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, iron, vitamin A, thiamin and betacarotene. These elements help maintain blood pressure and increase a body’s immunity.

Garlic chives are also low in fat and have a high content of dietary fiber and protein. According to Frank Tozer, who wrote the Uses of Wild Plants, it also helps to maintain a balanced metabolism.

A macro lens closeup of garlic chive flowers.

A macro lens closeup of garlic chive flowers.

If you look at the white garlic chive flowers closely, they look very similar to wild onion flowers, which bloom in late spring. When trying to tell the difference between the two, wild onion leaves are tubular while garlic chives are flat.

Natural Pest Deterrent

Another advantage of garlic chives is they are supposed to deter pests such as Japanese beetles, black spot on roses, scab on apples and mildew on cucurbits. I will move a few around next spring to increase my natural bug repelling efforts.

I have used both garlic chive flower stems and cut up leaves in salads and can’t tell a difference between the two, they both add a nice garlic flavor.

Wild onions and garlic were a Native American food staple. Bulbs were gathered in large quantities for winter use. Whole bulbs were roasted in fire pits, something we can duplicate by wrapping bulbs in aluminum foil and baking in a 350-F oven, or the ashes of a fire, for 45 minutes.

Native Americans also used wild onions and garlic as insect repellants, simply smearing them on their skin. I have heard alleged garlic cloves repel vampires but I am sure smearing garlic all over will repel people.

Charlotte

Peak of Fall Color

The front of my garden with dogwoods turning red, one of my favorite fall colors.

The front of my garden with dogwoods turning red, one of my favorite fall colors.

Peak of Fall Color 

I miss some of the calls, people wanting to know when fall colors will reach their peak. It was a yearly project where I used to work.

It started with my trying to convince silviculture experts in August to “guess” at what kind of fall colors we would have later that year. After getting through the long lectures on how tree leaves change color and why guessing was not a scientific approach, we would end up back at the original question.

Some would ignore my follow-up calls. Others would get into the spirit and wax poetic, even going so far as to sharing what their favorite fall tree was. It was still dicey to get them to commit to a prediction but I could waffle around some of what they said. These are precise people. If you have never tried to convince a scientist to make an educated guess, trust me, it’s a fine art.

I was thinking about those conversations earlier this week as I was walking through my garden, trying to guess what trees were turning based on their fall leaf color:

·       Dogwoods are easy, they turn a variety of reds and tend to stand out against other fall colors.

·       Hickories are yellow. So are oaks, which turn yellow, orange and brown, depending on their unique species.

·       I don’t have peachy sugar maples but there are enough around town to enjoy them as I drive by.

Tree leaves are not the same color in the other of the four seasons. We just don’t see them until a change in light and temperature triggers the decline of green chlorophyll to let colors shine through.

Leaves are fascinating solar-powered factories that produce most of the food trees need. Leaves contain chlorophyll, which absorbs sunlight and turns carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch. Hidden in those leaves are yellow to orange pigments, which also give carrots and pumpkins their color. 

In fall, changes in daylight and temperature signal trees to stop producing food. Chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible.

As leaves undergo other chemical changes, additional colors appear, such as red anthocyanin pigments. Those pigments give leaves their reddish to purplish colors, while sugar maples show peach and orange. All these colors are due to the mixing of varying amounts of chlorophyll residue and other leaf pigments.

One of the reasons guessing the peak of fall color is not easy is that temperature, light, and water supply all have an influence on fall color degree and duration. Low temperatures above freezing will favor trees producing anthocyanin. Early frost will weaken the brilliant red color. Rainy and overcast days sometimes increase fall color intensity. Rainy days can also mark the immediate end of fall colors when wind blows leaves off.

Fall colors move from north to south, usually reaching their peak in mid-Missouri in mid to late October. Don’t worry about when it will peak, it changes daily so sit back and enjoy the show! 

Charlotte

 

Mystery Clematis Identified!

Mystery clematis planted on Bluebird Gardens cedar fence.

Mystery Clematis Identified!

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to dig up plants from a neighbor's property getting bulldozed by the new owner. There were a LOT of plants so I invited a friend almost as crazy as I am about gardening to help me dig up the site.

We didn't always know what we were digging up. If it looked different than grass, it was dug up and we would sort it out later.

One of the big stashes we brought home was a collection of clematis vines. They were all over the property, at various stages of development. It was easier to dig up the starts than the more established ones so we focused on the younger ones. 

I planted several vines at the corners of the cedar fence in front of my house, having no clue what flowers might show up.

The mystery clematis vines growing over my cedar fence turned out to be autumn clematis.

The mystery clematis vines growing over my cedar fence turned out to be autumn clematis.

Early August, the vines started to entertain tiny white flowers. These vines turned out to be Sweet Autumn Clematis vines, a beautiful snowly-like scene of blooms with a lovely scent and a vine I was hoping someday to add to my garden.

Once established, Sweet Autumn Clematis vines are beautiful late summer bloomers.

This more established Sweet Autumn Clematis vine growing over a neighbor's tree.

This more established Sweet Autumn Clematis vine growing over a neighbor's tree.

Sweet Autumn Clematis is a hardy climber, I see the vine growing all over mid-Missouri from simple fences to garden arbors.

To keep the vine in check, I have read to cut the stems back to 12 inches in spring. The vines can reach 30 feet.

It blooms on the current year's growth. I have also read it's unusual to see blooms the first year so I feel privileged that I can identify what these vines are still this year.

Unlike many Clematis, who prefer cool shade on roots and sun on vines, Sweet Autumn Clematis will thrive and bloom well in partial shade. 

Wonderful surprise!

Charlotte

Move On In!

Move On In!

Seems just yesterday I was moving these tropical plants outside on my deck so they could spend their summer in sunshine and rain showers.

In mid-Missouri, our first frost tends to occur mid to late October so it is once again time to get my tropical plants ready to move back inside.

The first step is to select which ones have to go in first, either because of their special light needs or size, sometimes both. Once in line, I do a quick hitchhiker check to make sure I am not bringing in additional residents: tree frogs, lizards, praying mantis are among passengers that have ended up scurrying across a room once the plants were moved in.

Plant trimmings get mixed in with oak leaves and composted for next season.

Plant trimmings get mixed in with oak leaves and composted for next season.

Secondly, it's time to trim. Some years I have left the lush growth, only to be sorry later when it was a mess to clean up. This year, the growth has been trimmed, branches have been cut back and each plant was giving a good shower. There is no way to prevent bugs from getting inside but I certainly can minimize their success.

Bigger plants are either on, or get placed on, plant caddies so I can more easily place them.

Smaller plants get plastic plant trays to keep water in pots.

Now that the the plants are ready to come in, it's time to re-arrange inside furniture to give them as much window light as possible. It does get a bit tight but there is nothing like sitting in a chair surrounded by blooming greenery while it is cold and nOsnowing outside.

One of my tropical hibiscus blooming in a bay window where it will spend the rest of winter.

One of my tropical hibiscus blooming in a bay window where it will spend the rest of winter.

What do you do to bring tropical plants inside for winter?

Charlotte