Squaw Weed Missouri Wildflowers

Squaw Weed blooming in my Missouri hillside garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Squaw Weed blooming in my Missouri hillside garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Squaw Weed Missouri Wildflowers

I finally have a Missouri native wildflower that is taking over a flower bed.

Squaw Weed, or RoundLeaf Groundsel Packera obovata was part of several Missouri native wildflowers I transplanted into my hillside garden a good half a dozen years ago. The 12-15 inch flowers bloom in early spring, the same time as daffodils with tiny yellow, daisy-like flowers.

Squaw Weed flowers are similar to daisies and seed like dandelions. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Squaw Weed flowers are similar to daisies and seed like dandelions. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Easily grown in average, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade, I can attest it blooms well in shade.

Squaw Weed leaves provide a nice ground cover the rest of the year. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Squaw Weed leaves provide a nice ground cover the rest of the year. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Right now my squaw weed patch is growing in rich shade but I have some starts in rocky, sunny soil down my limestone hill.

The friend who identified these Missouri native wildflowers for me warned me that in the right conditions they will naturalize into large colonies by both self-seeding and stolons.I removed the flowering stems when they were done to cut down seed dispersal.

Squaw Weed spreading into a flower bed corner in shade. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Squaw Weed spreading into a flower bed corner in shade. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now that flowering is over, the round leaves provide a nice ground cover.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, these natives are valued for its ability to thrive in shady locations, naturalize rapidly and produce a long and profuse spring bloom of bright yellow flowers. It is native to rocky wooded hillsides, open rocky glades, limestone ledges, stream banks and moist meadows from Quebec and Ontario south to Texas and Florida.

In Missouri, it most often is found in the Ozark region in the southern and central part of the State
Genus name honors 20th century North American botanist John G. Packer.

It’s not easy to find perennials that like shade so this one is a keeper if I can keep it from taking over!

Charlotte




Tree Stump Toadstool

Finally have the proportions right of the top wooden piece, my tree stump toadstool! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Finally have the proportions right of the top wooden piece, my tree stump toadstool! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tree Stump Toadstool

So I do have a chain saw but I am not allowed to use it with good reason. I have a weak, broken right wrist which sometimes pinches and makes me drop things so not good to be wielding a piece of machinery that could take out a limb. Or two.

However, I have tree stumps where someone else wielded a chain saw and left tree remnants in various garden spots. Enter this one particular stump that now sits in the middle of one of my hillside flower beds.

I have used this tree stump for a variety of uses from holding a plastic pot bottom full of water for my nearby bees to a summer plant stand. None of them seemed to fit the bill so I started looking for a piece of wood I could place on top.

The initial idea was to use something that would make this old tree stump into a garden table but I found a wonderful cut down piece that in proportion has turned the cut down tree stump into a favorite busy garden visitor, toadstool. It helps that the top wooden pieces is a different color than the light gray bottom, encouraging the toadstool vibe.

Whenever I walk by, I smile so I know this is the right top for the tree stump.

Now on to the next one!

Charlotte

Darling Daylilies

These are descendants from the original immigrant daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These are descendants from the original immigrant daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Darling Dayliies

We don’t appreciate them as much as European settlers, who among their few possessions made room for Hemerocallis fulva, today’s common orange daylily, when they first arrived in North America. How did we forget how valuable these plants used to be?

When I worked for several weeks in Southampton for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, several of our English counterparts talked about their tiny gardens. One of the staple plants they continue to grow in their kitchen gardens is daylilies because all parts of the plant are edible.

I didn’t know that when I first admired the beautiful orange blooms. I did know they were almost impossible to kill and grow in almost all conditions. When my husband at the time and I had a house built, I used them to hold in the soil we brought in. Some areas today still have the descendants of those first plants, considered a Missouri native wildflower, so thick now I need to thin them out again if I am going to see flowers in that part of the Missouri limestone hillside garden again.

Daylilies Are Edible

I have since learned why daylilies are so darling, they are delicious. Jan Phillips in her book "Wild Edibles of Missouri" calls orange daylilies "another one of mother nature's grocery stores." Phillips confirms the whole plant is edible, from the young flower stalks in spring that taste like asparagus to the tiny, white root bulbs reminiscent of radishes.

The steamed stalks are referred to as the poor man’s asparagus, something I once again forgot to try this year when the stems were young enough.

Don Kurz in his field guide to “Ozark Wildflowers” said these plants have been “eaten in salads, in fritters, as a cooked vegetable and as a seasoning. In China, a root tea is used as a diuretic.”

There is also a cautionary note. “Recent Chinese reports warn that the roots and young leaf shoots are considered potentially toxic and can accumulate in the body and adversely impact the eyes, even causing blindness in some cases. Their studies also warn that the roots contain a carcinogen.”

I like the fresh flower buds. They are a nice addition to a salad or served on their own as a side dish. They taste like green beans with a hint of onion and brighten up any dish when you add an open flower.

Another way to enjoy the buds is to steam them. It only takes a couple of minutes to make the buds wilt so keep a close eye on them so they are not overcooked.

One of the more popular recipes is to fry the buds. If you want to try, use a flour dip in an egg wash in hot oil for only a minute or so, they cook quickly.

If you are going to eat daylilies, make sure you are picking them from a chemical-free area. Wash in cool water, then allow to dry. I keep them on their stems in a flower vase with water until I use them.

You don’t have to eat them to enjoy them, they are beautiful just as they are. Hemerocallis means "beauty for a day."

Charlotte

Self-Heal Mo Wildflowers

Self Heal is actually a mint and easily grows on my Missouri hillside. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Self Heal is actually a mint and easily grows on my Missouri hillside. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Self Heal Mo Wildflowers

Self-Heal loves lawns and gravel driveways, or at least my gravel driveway. It attracts bees and butterflies when flowering and is edible. Self-Heal, as the name suggests, was once a sought-after medicinal herb by herbalists and country folk alike.

I met Self-Heal on my Missouri limestone hillside garden a couple of decades ago. I didn’t like walking over it or even weed eating it, so I started to transplant the seedlings to edges of garden beds, where it has nicely established.

Self-Heal grows in many countries around the world and it loves disturbed areas. Habitats include moist to mesic black soil prairies, alongside rivers and lakes, meadows, thickets, forest openings, woodland borders, pastures, and abandoned fields. Self-Heal that is common in lawns is suspected to be a Eurasian variety. This means it is shorter and it has roots at the nodes of the leaves.

According to Edible Wild FoodSelf-Heal is edible and medicinal. The leaves and flowers contain high levels of antioxidants (which prevent cancer and heart disease). It has been used for centuries as medicine. Raw self-heal leaves are edible, suitable as a pot herb and have a subtle bitter taste. Although they taste better cooked, a lot of the nutrients are lost (as they are in vegetables as well) in this process. Toss leaves onto a salad, in a soup or stew or once you have mashed potatoes, add them to this. A cold water infusion of freshly chopped (or dried) leaves makes a nourishing drink. (Boil water to make tea as well.) This is a plant that can help many health ailments.”

Here is a patch of Self-Heal I helped to establish along a flower border several years ago. The plants are now mature and grow about 18 inches high.

Here’s one of the self heal bunches along one of my paths. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Here’s one of the self heal bunches along one of my paths. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As I have said, Self-Heal likes my gravel driveway so I took to the flower bed edges to find Self-Heal starts.

The leaves are easy to identify since they extend above the root on short stems.

These are self heal starts sprouting in my gravel driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These are self heal starts sprouting in my gravel driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

After a rain, Self-Heal starts can be gently pulled out of soft ground to transplant.

Once I have a handful, I use a weed puller to make holes in the new growing area and tuck Self-Heal starts in.

These self heal starts are moving to other parts of my garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These self heal starts are moving to other parts of my garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my Missouri native wildflowers book says this plant is also called “Heal All.” Who wouldn’t want that sort of help from a garden?

Charlotte

Tree Stump Bird Bath

Repurpose tree stumps into bird bath pedestals. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Repurpose tree stumps into bird bath pedestals. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tree Stump Bird Bath

Thanks to an infestation of emerald ash borers, I have had to cut down some of the ash trees on my Missouri limestone hillside garden.

Since I have several stumps I continue to trip over, I decided this time I would leave some of the tree stumps as short pedestals. While I considered what I could put on top of them, I have found lizards sunning themselves; squirrels eating nuts and, a couple of times, a hive tool I rested on the stump then forgot where I put it.

This time of year I have a lot of songbirds nesting around my garden so I decided to add a bird bath to one of the stump pedestals. The idea to attach a bird bath to one of these tree stumps was inspired by this make shift bee bar. It’s the green plastic pot bottom that has now sat on this old tree stump for a couple of years while providing nearby honey bee colonies with water.

This make shift bee bar inspired me to try a bird bath on another tree stump. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This make shift bee bar inspired me to try a bird bath on another tree stump. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Since the destination tree stump was much smaller, I took inspiration from another garden item, this very old hanging bird bath.

The hanging birth bath has a wooden base and plastic shallow bowl that sits inside.

These hanging bird baths can easily be repurposed on tree stumps. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These hanging bird baths can easily be repurposed on tree stumps. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The hanging bird bath cost around $11. I made sure the plastic insert was tied down to the wooden part by wearing galvanized wire through the hanging holes.

Tie down the blue plastic birdbath to the bottom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tie down the blue plastic birdbath to the bottom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The galvanized wire was woven through the bottom and into the next plastic insert hole.

After wiring, don’t forget to level the bird bath. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

After wiring, don’t forget to level the bird bath. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The wooden piece was nailed into place before I wove the galvanized wire. Once the blue insert was tied down, the new bird bath was done.

Once weathered, the cedar surround will turn grey. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Once weathered, the cedar surround will turn grey. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now to find an interesting rock to place in the middle but it has to be small. Not sure birds will want to take a bath in something that takes up space!

Charlotte

Wild Bergamot Bee Balm

Doesn’t this flower look like something Dr. Seuss would have drawn? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Doesn’t this flower look like something Dr. Seuss would have drawn? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild Bergamot Bee Balm

When I first moved into my Missouri limestone property, the hillside was covered in Wood Sage and Wild Bergamot, also called Horsemint and Bee Balm. Over the years, I have been coaxing both perennials back into my garden, marking spots where I know they have grown in the past and leaving nearby areas undisturbed.

Wild Bergamot, or Bee Balm, is a mint and looks like something Dr. Seuss would have drawn. The pink topknot holds the petals around a round seed head, fun to watch bobbing in wind. If you were a fan of The Muppets TV Show, you can easily join me in imagining these flowers in one of those sketches!

Wild bergamot making a return to my hillside garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild bergamot making a return to my hillside garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild bergamot and the more cultivated Bee Balm s a popular and showy perennial. Clusters of lavender, pink or white flowers, looking like ragged pompoms, bloom atop 2-5 ft., open-branched stems. 

This Missouri native perennial has aromatic leaves used to make mint tea. Oil from the leaves was formerly used to treat respiratory ailments.

The plant was named in honor of a 16th century Spanish physician and botanist, Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588). Monardes never went to the Americas but was able to study medicinal plants in Spain because Spain controlled navigation and commerce from the New World.

Wild bergamot looks like a tall mint. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild bergamot looks like a tall mint. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild Bergamot makes a good cut flower and a nice addition to a bouquet of wildflowers. The unusual flower shape easily makes it stand out.

Now excuse while I go back to my garden, I see another Wild Bergamot patch I want to encourage to grow!

Charlotte

Repurpose Rose Bush Ties

Rose bush ties.jpg

Repurpose Rose Bush Ties

If you buy plants that are bagged, such as bare foot roses, you will find lovely metal ties holding the top of the bags closed.

Those metal ties are wonderful garden helpers and because they are metal, easy to reuse.

The first purpose was tying up some errant raspberry starts. These were inching out of their bed and threatening to cover my strawberries so I moved them away from shading the strawberries.

Rose tie raspberry.jpg

Another great use for these metal rose bush ties is to anchor new trees to a post. This is a dwarf fruit cocktail tree that was leaning a little to the left. I added a metal stake and tied the tree to it so that it will continue to grow much straighter.

Rose tie branch.jpg

The nice thing about these ties is that they allow room for the plant tied up to grow. I can also easily re-attach the metal ties when I need to do so and they won’t melt in rain. The twine I have been using to tie up my rosebud trees only lasts a few months. Luckily I don’t need to keep those trees tied up for long before they start growing vertically.

In USDA Hardiness zone 5b/6a roses tend to be sold only through spring so remember this tip next year when you add a few bare root roses to your garden. If you don’t want to wait that long, pick up this Garden Flowers Lap Quilt on sale and I will include a few free rose bush ties you can use this year!

Charlotte

June Garden Chores

Beard-tongue,  Penstemon digitalis  , a Missouri native, is a lovely addition to any summer garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Beard-tongue, Penstemon digitalis , a Missouri native, is a lovely addition to any summer garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

June Garden Chores

June is the last month when plants will benefit from spring rains to settle in so take advantage of the above average rain to plant new plants, or move ones you want in other garden areas. Rolla, Mo. is in USDA Hardiness zone 5b/6a, which means we will move to hot conditions in just a few weeks.

1.        Keep asparagus beds weeded and let the green top ferns grow until they go brown; do not cut. Add compost.

3.        When mulching, leave 2-4 inches clear from the plant stem and the mulch ring no larger than 5 inches deep. More than that and you are smothering the plant.

4.        Leave spring bulb greenery to die off naturally. I gently remove the yellow leaves if they bug me and plant summer perennials to cover them in the meantime.

5.         Japanese beetles show up this month so hand pick and drop in a bucket of water with a few drops of dishwashing soap to drown them. Pick early in the morning when they are sluggish. Also treat your lawn with nematodes and milky spores, both will gradually help eliminate grubs. Add geraniums and tansies to your flower beds, they are natural Japanese beetle repellants.

6.         Trim lilacs immediately after they end flowering so growth the rest of this year will provide blooms next year. Same thing for iris and peonies.

7.        Plant a new supply of vegetables every 2 weeks to give yourself a new crop through the season. Early spring crops are done but there is still time for tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins and annual herbs.

8.  Get flower pots planted. Water the soil first, let drain, then add your flowers for better adjustment.

8.         Plant annual flower seeds such as zinnias, sunflowers, forget-me-nots, cosmos, marigolds and herbs. Some herbs can be moved inside later for winter use.

10.       When planting wildflowers, mark the beds where seeds have been added. Some wildflowers may take 2 years to germinate.

11.       For those of you with grass, don’t cut more than 1/3 of the grass down at one time.  For spots where grass doesn’t grow, plant flowers.

12.       When adding perennials, focus on native plants. Once established, they will require less water and care than non-natives and they will be food for native pollinators.

13.        Pinch mums once a week to encourage them to grow bushy for fall flowering. I take the pinched off pieces, gently push them into the ground and encourage more plants to grow.

14.        Feed roses and other plants compost to give them a good source of energy. Roses should be fed once a month. A quick pick me up is to dig your banana peels, egg shells and coffee grounds in around roses.

15.        Make sure to have a nice seating area in your garden so you can stop and smell the flowers.

16.    Take photos of your garden. Use the same photo spots you used in spring so you can see the changes from one season to the next.

Charlotte

Rose Grades

Bare root roses have their grade noted on the bag. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Bare root roses have their grade noted on the bag. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Rose Grades

Have you ever picked up a package of bare root roses and wondered what the number grades mean? The good news is that the rose Industry has established standards to help growers, and consumers, better know what they are buying. Those standards translate into grades, with the lowest number being the most expensive, Grade 1, to the less well-established roses at grade 2.

To us as consumers, Grade 1 roses are the most expensive and the ones we can expect to fully bloom the year they are purchased. These are also the newly launched roses.

Grade 1.5 are roses that can use a full year of growing before they are fully in bloom. They also tend to be the older, tried and true roses.

The other mark I look for in my roses is the American Rose Society emblem. Established in 1892, the society funds research and education as well as the ratings that help us all in our rose purchases.

The American Rose Society publishes a guide shared with its members rating the named roses. The higher the score the better the rose. I joined the society a few years back and have one of the booklets around here somewhere. The ratings can be misleading because a rose featured at the Portland Rose Festival may not do as well here in Missouri in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b/6a.

I do look for the American Rose Society Symbol more to assure myself I am buying a good established rose.

The other factor that is important to me is scent. I want roses that speak to me with their fragrance, be it spicy or just a heady odor that can fill up a room. Most roses today will note whether the rose is fragrant on the label.

Here’s one of the bare root roses getting a good start. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Here’s one of the bare root roses getting a good start. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Finally, here is the ranking of rose bush sizes. In mid-Missouri, the miniatures, which are a small shrub rose, have done well for me so I am adding a few more shrub varieties for my bees. And me.

Miniature (1 ft)

Floribunda (2-4 feet)

Hybrid Tea (3-5 feet)

Grandiflora (4-6 feet)

Shrub (4-6 feet)

Roses are edible and make lovely salad and plate garnishes, just make sure you are picking them from an area that hasn’t been treated with chemicals or pesticides.

Missouri is well-known for its clay and hot summer weather. Planting roses should work if we can amend soil with compost to give the roses the nourishment they need and provide them with air conditioning.

Well, one out of two isn’t bad.

Good reason to have a back up around, like this vintage roses quilt. No watering required!

Charlotte

Ox-eye Daisies Or...

All flowers should have bugs as visitors! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

All flowers should have bugs as visitors! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Ox-eye Daisies

Ox-eye Daisies Leucanthemum vulgare (formerly Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) were the first Missouri wildflowers I learned to identify before they were blooming. There was a field of them behind where I was living so I waited for them to die back and took note of what their rosette shape looked like so I could transplant some the following year.

Although identified as a Missouri wildflower, Ox-eye Daisies were introduced to North America from Eurasia. Others include dandelion, shepherd's purse, salsify, and henbit.

Ox-eye Daisies are herbs and the original plant that was bred to produce the more popular, and well-behaved, Shasta Daisy.

Ox-eye Daisies can be invasive and easily take over an area, which earns them the moniker of weed. I love seeing them along road sides and in my garden, they are very happy flowers and undoubtedly inspired me to carry this crochet daisies lap quilt throw.

The Ox-eye Daisy patch next to my mail box. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The Ox-eye Daisy patch next to my mail box. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Interestingly enough, this perennial is edible although I have to confess I haven’t tried them. Yet.

As I was looking at what was visiting this personal favorite, I spotted another, smaller white daily-like flower. Can you spot it?

(Hint. Bottom left)

But are all of those daisies Ox-Eye Daisies? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

But are all of those daisies Ox-Eye Daisies? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Philadelphia Fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus looks similar to Ox-eye Daisies but the white petals look more like someone took a pair of scissors and cut up the petals into a fringe. Philadelphia is considered a native Missouri wildflower and is a favorite food source of many of Missouri’s native bees including mason bees, small carpenter bees and cuckoo bees.

The more fringy daisies are Philadelphia fleabane. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The more fringy daisies are Philadelphia fleabane. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Philadelphia Fleabane flowers are also about half the size of Ox-eye Daisies so it’s easy to distinguish them when sitting together in a field.

Can you tell the difference in this photo? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Can you tell the difference in this photo? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Both flowers are simply white flowers with yellow centers but both are nice hosts to a number of insects, which means they have a nicely established job in our garden’s ecosystems.

Edible Addibles

One more thing about Ox-eye daisies. Did you know they are edible? You can sprinkle the white petals on a salad. According to Jan Philips, the green leaves can also be added to a salad and may be “an acquired taste.”

I suspect some people are still trying to get over that they can eat Ox-eye Daisies.

Charlotte

Bush Honeysuckle Removal

Bush honeysuckle has flowers very similar to the honeysuckle vine. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Bush honeysuckle has flowers very similar to the honeysuckle vine. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Bush Honeysuckle Removal

It’s time to tackle one of the more invasive shrubs in Missouri, bush honeysuckle. May-June is when they flower so that helps in identification although their gray stems are also a dead giveaway.

According to Missouri Department of Conservation, bush honeysuckle are large, upright, spreading shrubs reaching up to 15–20 feet in height, with flowers that change from white to yellow, juicy red berries, and opposite, simple leaves that green up much earlier than surrounding native vegetation.

Leaves are deciduous, opposite, simple, 1–2½ inches long, narrowly oval with the tip abruptly pointed, the margin entire (not toothed or lobed); upper surface green, lower surface pale green and fuzzy. In late autumn, leaves typically remain green and attached well after the leaves of our native trees and shrubs have fallen.

Bark is grayish brown, tight, with broad ridges and grooves.

Twigs are grayish brown, thornless; often the older branches are hollow.

Flowers May–June, fragrant, in clusters from the leaf axils, tubular, 1 inch long, slender, distinctly 2-lipped, with upper lip having 4 lobes, lower lip with 1 lobe. Petals change from white or pink to yellowish as they age.

Fruits mature in September–October; typically red berries about ¼ inch across, 2–6 seeded, in pairs in the axils of the leaves.

Another tell is that butterflies will visit honeysuckle vines but not touch bush honeysuckle.

Here’s what it looks like fully established:

Full grown bush honeysuckle has grey striated stems. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Full grown bush honeysuckle has grey striated stems. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of the problems with bush honeysuckle is that it kills everything growing under it, eliminating other native plants and shrubs.

Native plants and shrubs provide food for native insects and pollinators, some that depend on specific plants for their food and survival.

Our recent spring rains gives us all a chance to easily remove bush honeysuckle stars like this one:

Small bush honeysuckle starts are easy to remove. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Small bush honeysuckle starts are easy to remove. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Rain softens soil and makes it easy to pull the bush honeysuckle starts straight out of the ground, roots and all.

Pull bush honeysuckle starts after a rain. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Pull bush honeysuckle starts after a rain. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The larger, established bush honeysuckle plants should be cut in fall and treated with vinegar to kill the plant.

Don’t use a weed eater to cut off the top of the new bush honeysuckle plants, that will make the stem hardier and more difficult to pull out later.

I have been clearing my one acre hillside for the past 5 years and have one patch at the bottom of the acre to still clean out.

Guess what I will be doing as soon as the sun comes out again!

Charlotte

Planting Tomatoes

A little stash of tomatoes ready to be planted. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A little stash of tomatoes ready to be planted. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Planting Tomatoes

We had several local plant sales over the weekend, an excellent time to stock up on tomato plants. Not that I need too many, my favorite cherry tomatoes tend to volunteer in nearby plant pots so all I need to do is look for their tell tale leaves.

This year I decided to treat myself to three other tomato plants; a Better Boy, an all time large tomato favorite; a Brandywine which I have never grown before and an heirloom variety.

I grow my tomatoes in large pots along my retaining wall steps so I can easily manage and maintain them. After filling the planting pots with new potting soil around buried holy plastic bottles so I can water roots, I added crushed up egg shells to the bottom of the planting hole. The dried egg shells will provide the plants with the calcium they need. Half a shell per plant will do nicely.

Each pot was also given a scoop of compost from one of my composters. This compost cooked over winter and turned a lovely dark brown, a sure sign that it is ready to be used. I mixed it up so the compost is spread through the soil. The compost will provide extra nutrients to soil microorganisms that help keep the tomato plants healthy.

Add dry egg shells to the bottom of your planting holes. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Add dry egg shells to the bottom of your planting holes. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Why yes, I do have gardening gloves but it’s hard to take a picture with them on. You will have to believe me that I used the gardening gloves as I made the planting holes, mixed compost and added egg shells.

Finally, a step I forgot to take last year. Add a tomato cage now, when the plants are small and you can easily get the cage over them.

Last year, I waited until late June to cage them and I had to literally wrestle the plants into the metal frames, loosing some branches in the process. It’s much easier to do it now.

Add a tomato cage now or you may forget. I do! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Add a tomato cage now or you may forget. I do! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As a natural bug deterrent, I added basil plants to each of the tomato pots, two per plant. I will keep them pinched so they bush as they grow, giving me not only fresh basil but repelling bugs.

One last addition, basil to keep bugs at bay. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One last addition, basil to keep bugs at bay. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now the fun part, watching them grow. I love going out into my garden every morning to see what is growing, blooming and changing. Tomato plants usually grow fast so their changes are interesting to watch.

By the way, honeybees don’t pollinate tomato plants, bumblebees do. Luckily I have seen quite a few in my garden already this spring so the tomato plants will have good company.

Charlotte

Remember to Water

Basic planting supplies should include a watering can. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Basic planting supplies should include a watering can. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Remember to Water

I was at one of my favorite yearly plant sales when one of the ladies said she just had someone complain that the plants she purchased last year didn’t make it.

“Did you water them,” the lady asked the customer.

“No.”

And once again, someone who may have claimed to have a brown thumb is revealed to have forgotten a basic requirement when planting: water.

Note to all shoppers at Gardeners of the Forest City plant sale. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Note to all shoppers at Gardeners of the Forest City plant sale. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of the reasons I like to plant in spring is that I can time the work around spring showers. Rain provides so many more benefits to plants than we may realize; the newly-oxygenated water can saturate soil and fully moisturize it making soluble nutrients available to soil microorganisms.

In addition, city water contains fluoride which inhibits plants from taking up nutrients.

When looking at soil composition, 25% of all soil is water so to keep soil in balance, it should get about 1” of water a week.

No need for a watering can, you can also repurpose a one gallon milk jug. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

No need for a watering can, you can also repurpose a one gallon milk jug. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When I am getting ready to plant, I always carry a water source with me, either a watering can or a recycled milk jug, that way I won’t forget to add water before I move on to the next project.

In summer, when temperatures are much hotter, I used an underground watering wand to keep plant roots moist.

The bottom line is when you plant, water. You may be amazed at how quickly a black thumb will turn green!

Charlotte

Orange Rose Tree

What do these colors remind you of, anything in particular? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

What do these colors remind you of, anything in particular? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Orange Rose Tree

I have to confess, I have had my eye on rose trees for awhile now. Since my garden is basically vertical - I tend to plant so that one plant covers something that is dying back - it was only a matter of time before I brought home an example of a rose tree.

When I first saw these, I kept thinking the color reminded me of something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I liked the fact that these tree roses had single petals, making it much easier for my bees - both honey bees and native bees - find the nectar and pollen. Flowers produce nectar to entice pollinators, then pollen sticks to them so they move the pollen from one flower to the next, ensuring the plant’s reproduction.

The rose tree color was also striking with the rose buds starting very dark, almost brown around the edges, then lightening up as the rose bud unfolded.

I inadvertently knocked one of the buds off and put it in a vase. The bud was lovely for several days, then today it opened.

This bud finally opened in my kitchen, love the yellow accent. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This bud finally opened in my kitchen, love the yellow accent. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tree roses are easy to grow. I picked up a couple red ones last year on sale and have them staked just in case strong winds sweep through the garden. Short of that, tree roses have the same requirements as regular roses - compost, onion sets to discourage bugs and mulch.

Oh, and my rose recipe: dry coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, cut up dry banana peels with a dash of epson salts.

Rosa “Playboy” (Floribunda) rose tree. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Rosa “Playboy” (Floribunda) rose tree. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

So I was sitting outside on a garden bench at sunset, watching the sun disappear over the Ozark hills, when I remembered why these tree roses were nagging at me. The orange rose color with the yellow accent reminded me of that lovely sunset color as the sun is waning and the sky molts from blue to orange.

That’s probably why I brought these Rosa ‘Playboy” Floribunda tree roses home. Now when I miss my sunsets I can still enjoy them in the color of the flowers.

Charlotte

Giant Missouri Beavers

Today’s beaver skull compared to the giant beavers that once lived in Missouri. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Today’s beaver skull compared to the giant beavers that once lived in Missouri. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Giant Missouri Beavers

Yes, Missouri at one time had very large beavers. The proof was at the Kimmswick, Missouri Mastodon Museum, located on the site of an archaeological excavation that found proof that Mammoth Elephants roamed Missouri millions of years ago.

At that same time, Mammoths lived among a number of giant creatures including giant beavers.

A number of years ago, I worked with a team of biologists trying to find a way to discourage a family of beavers from making damns along one of the river tributaries where they were trying to restore natural communities. During those discussions, I learned a lot about beavers including how industrious they are and how well they deserve the nickname of engineers.

The way they can cut down trees to make their wooden logs is one of nature’s many amazing features.

Here are the beavers fully-covered in fur. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Here are the beavers fully-covered in fur. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now can you imagine what giant beavers could do? I imagined they had much larger trees to deal with but the museum has concluded they probably fed on softer kinds of vegetation.

Now that’s a big - no, giant - beaver! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now that’s a big - no, giant - beaver! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Meanwhile their modern counterparts are much smaller although more efficient in terms of what they do with their teeth.

Dimensions of today’s beaver for comparison. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Dimensions of today’s beaver for comparison. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The project I was tracking ended up catching the beavers and moving them to another part of the forest where they wanted a damn built, and the beavers were only too happy to help.

While discussing the findings of these creatures, I asked the docent if they had found bees and what size they may have been. After going through a listing of what creatures they had confirmed to date, there was nothing in the records about the size of bees but it does make one wonder, doesn’t it?

Charlotte

Mystery Yellow Flowers

These mystery yellow double flowers finally get an id. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These mystery yellow double flowers finally get an id. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Mystery Yellow Flowers

I forget what year this plant was given to me. It was touted as a vine that blooms in spring and then again later mid-summer, easily climbing over trellises. I don’t recall if this was supposed to grow in sun or shade so I have it growing in both conditions. The yellow reminds me of an egg yolk color, deeper than the yellow in this yellow rose handmade quilt.

I was fine not knowing what this plant was until I gave several starts to my gardening buddy Tom.

“Have you figured out what the yellow flowers are” became his substitute for “good morning” some days.

Checking my gardening books and guides, I couldn’t find anything remotely like them and the search was on.

This year, I took several photos and took them to a friend who works at a local gardening center.

Japanese rose, she said. Actually she said Kerria japonica but Tom said “give me the simple version.”

These rose-family shrubs are originally from China and Japan. They bear pretty yellow double flowers in spring and then again mid to late summer.

Japanese rose's bark and branches are also interesting. The main branches on the double flowering type arch gracefully to a height of 8-10 feet. Smaller branches radiate off the main ones in all directions so these bushes require little pruning. The bark is a pleasing kelly green to greenish-yellow, to boot -- a color retained throughout the winter. 

Grow the bush in partial shade. It is one of the most shade-tolerant of the deciduous flowering shrubs (in terms of shade not stunting flower production. The plants will also do fine in sun, but sun causes the color of the flowers to quickly fade.

Japanese rose is not overly fussy about soil. It will tolerate poor soils but may perform better in soils enriched with humus. The ground should be kept evenly moist around Kerria japonica, which prefers a well-drained soil.

japanese rose on wall.jpg

Its shade tolerance gives you the option of having a deciduous flowering shrub in shady garden areas. The attractive branches also provide visual winter interest.

Choose a background against which the branch color can be displayed to optimal effect; for example, Japanese rose's kelly green stems pop against a grey cedar wood background.

Japanese Rose Care

The plant blooms on old wood in early-to-mid spring; prune just after its spring flowering is over. A second flowering later in the growing season is not unusual, but it is too late to prune at that point. Prune out dead branches as you find them.

Old plants in need of rejuvenation pruning may be cut down to ground level. Japanese rose spreads by suckering; remove suckers as they occur if you wish to control its spread. In fact, the main problem with this plant is that it spreads vigorously; stay ahead of it with regular sucker removal. 

A Japanese Rose By Any Other Name

Besides "Japanese Rose," other common names for Kerria japonica pick up on the fact that it is a member of the rose family. The common name "Easter Rose" comes from its early blooming period during Easter, in some regions. The flowers' color accounts for the common name, "Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Who Is The Plant Named After

The genus name, Kerria comes from William Kerr, who brought the plant from the Far East to the West. Kerr was one of the great 19th-century collectors responsible for importing some of the plants indigenous to China. According to the University of Arkansas Extension, Kerr also brought to North America heavenly bamboo and tree peonies.

The leaves of Japanese rose are truly a bright kelly green. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The leaves of Japanese rose are truly a bright kelly green. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Instead of planting these as growing trellis vines, they will work nicely as specimen plants in an informal garden where their naturally sprawling branches can grow freely. I will be moving some of these just to that kind of spot in my garden!

Charlotte

How to Manage Dying Spring Bulbs

Daffodils and purple tulips are now fading in my garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daffodils and purple tulips are now fading in my garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

How to Manage Dying Spring Bulbs

Frankly I cringe when I see people mowing down, or worse, pulling out, their tulip bulbs and cutting off the top greenery. Granted once bloomed, tulip and daffodils are on the down side of pretty, leaves turning yellow as they shrivel up and melt into the landscape. That is precisely the point; they should be allowed to gently fade away.

In the process, these bulbs, as most other plants, are still taking in sunlight they turn into energy that gets stored in bulbs. The energy then is taped next time they grow and, if they have enough, they will bloom again.

Tulips, daffodils and other spring-blooming plants need to collect the energy through their leaves if they are going to have enough energy to bloom again. Without it, they will use up whatever energy they have stored and either just grow leaves next year, or die.

I understand the remaining greenery is not attractive so what to do about the ugly greenery. I plant other flowers in front and around the daffodils and tulips so they will grow and overtake, or cover up, the yellowing leaves.

Daffodil leaves are turning yellow as they die back. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daffodil leaves are turning yellow as they die back. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you want to save the bulbs, dig the up with the greenery still attached. The plant may continue to grow after it is out of soil so keep their version of being solar powered available to the plant or it may die.

These tulips, for example, can be moved after blooming as long as the green tops are left attached to the bulbs. If you cut them off, the bulb has no way to collect sunlight and, through photosynthesis, turn it into energy and food it stores in the bulb.

Tulip bulbs depend on leaves to provide bulbs food. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tulip bulbs depend on leaves to provide bulbs food. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The same applies to mowing them over, cutting off the greenery, walking across it - anything that detaches the solar panels of a plant, the leaves, from their storage area - the bulbs.

Even if you don’t have anything to camouflage the yellowing leaves, the dying off process will take a very short time so be patient!

Charlotte

Patience

You think this hybrid tea rose is dead? Think again. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

You think this hybrid tea rose is dead? Think again. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Patience

Of all of the four seasons in my garden, it’s during spring that I tend to relearn this lesson: be patient. As my Missouri hillside greens up from a drab, cold winter, I periodically am startled to find plants growing I thought had died.

Some show up the following spring from when they are planted. Others, such as a catalpa tree start, has re-appeared a couple of years after I planted, and then thought, it had died.

It’s yet another reason why I don’t cut out and remove plants that appear to be dead. Well, I tell myself that but last week I decided I was going to clear a flower bed of one of the hybrid tea roses that appeared to be dead. As soon as I pulled it out, I saw a new green start growing along the side so back into the soil it went while I admonished myself to not be so impatient.

In another flower border, I looked at my little fig tree and debated whether to pull it out or not. After a few minutes, I reached a compromise with myself and peeked along the side of what appeared to be dead. Again a little shoot appeared growing to one side so I left it there, excited to know I had not lost them after all.

If you let go of being compulsively tidy, you may just find some plants still growing. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you let go of being compulsively tidy, you may just find some plants still growing. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

By pulling the fragile starts out of the ground we reduce the chances they will grow. If we leave them in and only clean them out later when we know nothing has survived, then we raise the chances that the plants will re-establish themselves.

The critical part of anything growing well is the strength of its roots. Even after drought periods, as long as the roots are kept hydrated there is a good chance the plant will come back later.

I think of myself as a patient person but every year my garden reminds me of what it truly means. To every thing, including plants, there is a season, and a rate of growth. So keep my hands off of them until I know for sure they haven’t made it!

Charlotte

Turtle Time

The first box turtle of 2019 was conveniently crossing my driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The first box turtle of 2019 was conveniently crossing my driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Turtle Time

It’s that time of year again when box turtles are on the move looking for love. Usually turtle season or turtle season in mid-Missouri starts closer to Mother’s Day but this year it is a couple of weeks early.

My first box turtle was walking across my own driveway. I was heading out to run errands and saw the traveler at the top of my gravel road. I couldn’t blame the turtle, it was a warm sunny spring day and even I was headed out.

When I got close, the turtle clammed up. Or turtled up, as one of my brothers used to call it, by pulling head and limbs back into its shell.

Box turtle closing up when I came close. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Box turtle closing up when I came close. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

According to Missouri Department of Conservation, there are 17 kinds of turtles native to Missouri. The location of Missouri between the forested eastern United States and the prairies of the Great Plains has allowed plants and wildlife of the two regions to mingle. This is definitely the case with our two species of box turtle. The three-toed box turtle is closely related to a species found east of the Mississippi River, while the ornate box turtle has relatives to the west.

The name “box turtle” refers to the ability of this reptile to tightly close its shell when frightened. It does this by means of a hinge located across its lower shell. When startled, the turtle pulls its head and limbs into its shell for protection. Then it moves each half of the hinged lower shell up to meet the upper shell, thus closing like a box.

The name “terrapin” is often used for box turtles in Missouri, though it isn’t quite correct. The dictionary’s definition of the word terrapin refers to edible, aquatic turtles found in fresh and brackish waters of North America. Box turtles should not be considered edible, nor are they aquatic. However, the word terrapin is used by people of the British Isles to refer to any and all species of turtles. This could be the source of the word usage in southern Missouri.

To complicate the matter further, the scientific name (genus) of North American box turtles is Terrapene. In reality, our box turtles are closely related to semi-aquatic turtles found in rivers and wetlands, such as red-eared sliders and painted turtles.

A little spring treat to my garden visitor before I left him to enjoy it. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A little spring treat to my garden visitor before I left him to enjoy it. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Both three-toed and ornate box turtles are fond of eating soft-bodied insects and earthworms, and the young of both species eat a higher percentage of these foods than anything else. However, there are some differences in the overall diets of the adults.

Adult three-toed box turtles eat more plant material and fruit than ornate box turtles. In the wild, they are known to eat strawberries, mulberries, black raspberries and blackberries. Mushrooms, tender shoots and flowers are also eaten.

Because box turtles live on land and eat plants, people often think of them as being small tortoises. This has led to the belief that box turtles live a very long time, maybe 100 years or more. Missouri’s species of box turtles actually live an average of 40 to 50 years.

A 25-year study of a population of three-toed box turtles in central Missouri by Charles and Libby Schwartz showed that the oldest specimen in a sample of over 1,700 was 59 years old.

There are times and circumstances when box turtles come in contact with people and, more often than not, it turns out poorly for these reptiles.

Many people who enjoy gardening have experienced box turtles getting into their crops of red, ripe strawberries or tomatoes. It’s easy to understand why box turtles frequently visit gardens in May and early June. There are few insects available at this time of year to eat, wild strawberries are scarce (and very small in size) and turtles are still trying to gain some weight after a long, over-winter dormancy. A garden with a nice crop of strawberries is too hard to resist for a hungry box turtle. Later in the summer, as tomatoes ripen, box turtles are attracted to the red color and the amount of moisture available in these fruits.

A simple solution to these problems is to build a low fence to keep box turtles and other wildlife out of the garden. Then, make sure the tomato plants have good, sturdy stakes or wire supports for climbing so that ripening fruit will be off the ground and out-of-reach of your neighborhood box turtles.

Relocating box turtles to new areas is not good for the reptiles. The new location may already have an established population with limited resources, and the transplanted turtles may not survive. Also, relocated wildlife have a strong urge to head back to where they came from, which can lead to them being killed on a road.

If you find a box turtle on a road, safely stop and move the turtle across the road in the direction it was travellng. Giving it a strawberry treat is purely optional!

Charlotte

Missouri's State Tree Flowering Dogwood

The lovely flowers of Missouri’s state tree, dogwoods. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The lovely flowers of Missouri’s state tree, dogwoods. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s State Tree Flowering Dogwood

I have always loved Missouri’s state tree, flowering dogwood “cornus florida.” When my husband at the time and I moved into our home on this Missouri limestone hillside, one of the first things I did was plant dogwood seedlings. I should have marked the sites but I didn’t know then it could take years, in some cases decades, before these trees found their roots through the limestone to nourishment that would propel their growth.

This is one of the flowering dogwood seedlings I planted in my front island. This tree has taken a good two decades to get to this size and bloom. What I appreciate is that I no longer have to duck or walk around it since it is so close to the garden path. Well, the path wasn’t there when I planted it. It sprung up several years after I planted it and had added the garden path.

Flowering dogwoods are understory trees, giving forests a snow-covered look. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Flowering dogwoods are understory trees, giving forests a snow-covered look. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The flowering dogwood seedling I spent the most time watching grow - well, hoping is more like it - is Theodore. Yes, this flowering dogwood tree has a name.

When I first planted Theodore in front of my living room window, I thought I would be able to enjoy seeing the flowers sitting in a comfortable easy chair at the window. Theodore sat in this one spot for a good 25 years standing no more than 3 feet tall. I was convinced I had planted him in a rock ledge so he was going to be a bonsai dogwood and gave up ever seeing the snowy-white understory cover dogwoods give larger trees.

Then about 5 years ago, I noticed Theodore was a few inches taller. The following year, he grew a whole foot, then another few feet the following year and then, one whole white bloom. It was a big bloom but one bloom nevertheless.

This year, Theodore was in full bloom, a 33 year wait for this flowering dogwood to find enough nourishment on this hillside to finally grow into his full beauty.

Theodore finally in full bloom after “only” 33 years! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Theodore finally in full bloom after “only” 33 years! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I do sit at the front window in my easy chair and look at him some mornings. Besides the beauty, flowering dogwoods add a lot to a garden’s ecosystems. The fruits are eaten by squirrels and white-tailed deer and are a preferred food for wild turkey and at least 28 other species of birds, including quail.

As an understory and forest border tree, dogwood provides cover for many mammals and birds.

When I was adding tags to my fruit trees last year, I gave Theodore one as well. It’s quite an accomplishment for this little tree and one others should celebrate.

Happy spring!

Charlotte