Moving Time!

 Pick ax makes digging easier although I prefer to wait for a day after a good rain. These iris are ready to move to their new garden spot. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Pick ax makes digging easier although I prefer to wait for a day after a good rain. These iris are ready to move to their new garden spot. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Moving Time!

It's not officially fall but late summer is the beginning of moving time in my garden. Peonies, iris, day lilies, daffodils and hardy hibiscus in particular better have their suitcases packed because this is when they relocate.

To make your plant moving easier, consider the following tips:


1. Know where the plants will end up. That means not only identifying the site but checking the soil, amending it if necessary, and preparing the site for the incoming plants including ample root space.


2. If in doubt, check the plants growing habits. Make sure you are not planting something that will grow tall where you don't want it.


3. Whatever you are moving, dig up the plant with soil around the roots. Moving soil will help minimize trauma to plant roots.


4. Water. Add moisture to where you will be digging as well as where you will be planting. Wet soil is easier to dig, which is why I time my digging sessions after a good rainstorm. You also need well hydrated soil when you plant or anything you plant will die.


5. Wait 2-4 weeks until all blooming has stopped before moving.


6. Check for bugs. If you have any bugs, treat with Neem oil spray, which absorbs into the plant to fight bugs from the inside. Do not move diseased plants or you will be spreading the issues. Mark the plants and periodically check them until the bugs are gone, then move the plants.

 Once moved, some plants like these daylilies won't stand up straight. Don't worry, they will next year after they have settled in. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Once moved, some plants like these daylilies won't stand up straight. Don't worry, they will next year after they have settled in. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)


7. Have mulch handy. Mulching newly-moved plants greatly increases their chances of surviving the mood. Make sure the mulch is seasoned so that it doesn't burn delicate roots.


8. Make notes. Keep a little map or notes in your garden diary about where you planted items so you can check back next year. I can't tell you how many times I have moved plants, forgotten where I put them only to find them popping up a year or two later. I just found a catalpa tree I moved several years ago that survived and is now growing quite nicely. Plants will spend the first couple of years of their life growing strong roots. They will loose their green tops at the height of hot weather to survive. As long as their roots stay hydrated, the plants will survive.


9. Move on a cloudy, overcast day or late in the day so they don’t have to be stressed by full sun.
10. Check your new plantings. I periodically find a plant or two pushed out of their new holes by curious wildlife so ensure that they are staying where you put them.


11. Water daily for the first two weeks or more. To the plant this is a new growing environment so make sure you keep the soil nicely hydrated while the roots re-establish themselves. For some plants it can take several months.


12. Mulch. Once you know the soil is moist, add mulch. The mulch will help preserve the moisture but still check to make sure soil is hydrated.


13. Make notes of what other plants need to move.

 These sprawling iris are settled into their new spot with water, mulch and a note in my garden diary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These sprawling iris are settled into their new spot with water, mulch and a note in my garden diary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One more note. Moved plants in the fall will not settle in and stand straight before the end of the season but they will next year when they grow in their new garden location. Just make sure their roots don't pop out while they are settling in.

Charlotte
 

Gardening Book Gift Idea

 Fritillaria on Black-eye Susan By Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Fritillaria on Black-eye Susan By Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Gardening Book Gift Idea

It's time to start thinking about gift ideas and this is one that will keep on giving, a book from National Wildlife with seasonal tips on gardening. It has a very small personal connection, too, the publication includes one of my garden photos.

When I entered the National Wildlife's photo contest, it never crossed my mind that down the road I would be asked to sell the photo for one of their upcoming publications.

I have been a National Wildlife supporter for decades. My one-acre limestone hillside garden is a Certified Wildlife Garden, which means I meet their criteria for providing food, shelter and water to native wildlife. I often recommend their accreditation quizz as a guide to planning a wildlife-friendly garden.

 National Wildlife Federation purchased my fritillaria photo for their publication.

National Wildlife Federation purchased my fritillaria photo for their publication.

National Wildlife  also sent me a complimentary copy of the book they published. They selected a number of articles from their magazine, presented by season:

 Several seasonal topics are covered in wildlife gardening, a great gift idea!

Several seasonal topics are covered in wildlife gardening, a great gift idea!

Since I am pursuing new gardening techniques, I thought it was serendipitous that my butterfly photo showed up in the chapter about gardening for change:

 Here's my photo in the National Wildlife Federation article about gardening for change.

Here's my photo in the National Wildlife Federation article about gardening for change.

Yes, I am tickled that my photo is published but more importantly, I think this is a great gardening gift idea. Besides beautiful photos, the articles cover pertinent issues we all face in our gardens.

"Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons" is $14.95 and available from the National Wildlife Federation's website.

No, I don't get any proceeds from the sale, I do think the publication would be a great gift and good reading for those upcoming cold winter months.

Charlotte

September Gardening Chores

 Time to plant  trees  in the garden, these are bare roots I potted late spring.

Time to plant trees in the garden, these are bare roots I potted late spring.

September Gardening Chores

It can’t almost be fall, I still have summer chores to finish. The following are some of the gardening chores for September if you live in USDA Hardiness zone 5B:

If you have been fertilizing, it is time to stop. Plants need to start slowing down and get out of the growth they usually pursue through spring and summer, even without the boost of fertilizers. Add a last dollop of compost mixed in the soil and that should be it for this season.

Do keep watering trees and shrubs from now through hard frost. Our first hard frost is usually mid to end of October.

Start cleaning up flowerbeds and vegetable gardens by removing spent plants and saving seeds.  Leave the ragweed to treat the soil, they will die once their work is done.

 If you plan to start a new garden next year, this is the time to cover it with cardboard to kill off any current growth.

Bring some of your herbs inside including parsley, chives, rosemary , catnip and stevia. Basil can also be brought inside; sow seeds now to get new plants started for later use. Dry the herbs and store in airtight container.

Good time to move peonies. I have several I buried the eyes too deep so when replanting, remember to not bury any more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface. Daylilies and iris can also be dug up and divided.

Make notes in your garden diary about to dos for next year. Note what plants worked well this year, what seeds you had meant to plant but didn’t get to – whatever you want to tackle next year.

Have favorite annuals? I do, too, and I trim them now before bringing them inside. You can also take root cuttings and start young plants if you have good indoor light. 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.

GC Sept Gardening Chores 2.jpg

Order spring bulbs. Daffodils are toxic to deer so they won’t get munched on. Tulips are not so buy a few for color, then plant them behind a solid wall with wire if you don’t want wildlife snacking on them in the meantime.

If you have left over Amaryllis bulbs, put them in a dry, dark place without water and let them rest for a couple of months. If you want to time when they bloom, pot and water them 6 weeks prior to when you want them in bloom.

My deck is starting to get covered in leaves so I am sweeping them off to the composter and getting those emptied onto the flowerbeds. Don’t bag and rake clippings, leave them on your lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil.

This is also a good time to stock up on mulch. Buy it in bulk or load up at your local recycling center before they close down for the season.

Start trimming plants you plan to bring inside to overwinter. It's almost fall!

Charlotte

Snappy Turtle

 This is where I found this turtle in my garden, as if it had climbed my garden steps. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is where I found this turtle in my garden, as if it had climbed my garden steps. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Snappy Turtle

I have lost count of the number of turtles I have helped cross a road.  Usually they are a variety of Missouri box turtle; Missouri is home to 18 different turtle species.

Over the years, it’s the box turtles that have hung around my garden.  Lefty Louie was a three-legged box turtle that chose to spend several seasons in my garden, stopping by the garage door whenever he wanted a strawberry. The many turtle adventures - I do brake for turtles - also led me to carry Turtle Time Quilt and Wall Hanging.

I was thinking about Lefty Louie the morning I was walking through my garden and saw a new visitor sitting at the top of my retaining wall stairs. Moving towards the back for a closer look, I realized this was one of Missouri’s common snapping turtles, not a turtle one wants to pick up and expect to still have all fingers.

One of our local park ponds had a resident snapping turtle in the 1980s. When the US Army came in one summer to help clean out the pond , the crew reportedly would quickly make for landfall every time “Friskie” would surface and snap at their heels.

Maybe this turtle is just walking through, I thought to myself. They do migrate through. Within minutes, it was moving towards my little goldfish pond.

 Look at the back side, that tail looks quite pre-historic. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Look at the back side, that tail looks quite pre-historic. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These snapping turtles used to be a popular food source, or so I am told. Starting March 1, 2018, Missouri Department of Conservation made it illegal to harvest common snapping and soft shell turtles for commercial use. They can still be harvested for personal use but the limit has been reduced from five each to a total of two.

It shouldn’t affect many. According to the state conservation department, very few individuals reported harvesting turtles for food during their 2017 open houses but snapping turtles are commercially sold to foreign markets.

Missouri Department of Conservation said turtles are loosing ground to land conversion, draining of wetlands and channelization of rivers, which have replaced their preferred habit – swamps, marshes and meandering streams.

Missouri is home to 18 turtle species. A couple of decades ago, I remember box turtle numbers precipitously dropped due to highway mortality and people were encouraged to not hit them as they migrate. Here are  Missouri Department of Conservation’s other recommendations:

Don’t adopt or buy turtles for pets.

Don’t shoot turtles for sport. It’s illegal and it puts pressures on an already stressed animal group.

Report turtle poachers to Operation Game Thief 800-392-1111.

Be careful where you drive, especially in spring and summer when box turtles are mating, nesting and dispersing. If you can do so safely, stop and help a turtle cross the road. Always move the turtle in the direction it is headed.

Created habitat areas around your home or farm with wetlands and wooded, shrubby and grassy natural habitat.

And my snappy visitor?

I tossed a plastic tote over it and carefully nudged it into the tote before turning it over. The turtle was moved to a large open pond about 15 miles from my house with a nearby stream.

Charlotte

 

 

August Gardening Chores

 Give inside and deck plants a good rain shower or two during very hot spells.

Give inside and deck plants a good rain shower or two during very hot spells.

August Gardening Chores

I don’t plant anything in my garden in August.  The soil in USDA zone 5b is so dry few plants will survive even if watered so I just skip doing much planting. I also try not to watch as some of my plants fry under the hot sun but I know if I can keep the roots wet, they will come back later this year, or next:

1.     Water plants at root level, which means no sprinklers. Use underground wands and move them to saturate soil. Gardens need an inch of rain a week. Don’t forget established shrubs and older trees, they also need moisture delivered to their roots to make sure they make it through the record hot August temperatures.

2.     Water potted plants daily; if temperatures are once again hitting record levels, maybe twice a day and move them into shade. Add compost to keep the potted soil healthy.

3.     If you didn’t get to planting your garden this year, at least toss a few buckwheat seeds to help improve your soil. Buckwheat will sprout in about 6 weeks and will be welcome fall food for pollinators as well.

4.     If you haven’t been using your fresh herbs, this is a good time to start. Most may have flowered and lost some of their potency but they still can be added to salads and other summer dishes. Rosemary and chamomile can be harvested and used in bloom. I chop up and freeze some of mine in ice cubes for winter use in soups.

 Irregular watering contributes to tomatoes cracking. They're still good, they just look odd!

Irregular watering contributes to tomatoes cracking. They're still good, they just look odd!

5.     My tomatoes set late this year but they are finally ripening. Try to keep them evenly watered to minimize cracking.

6.     Have peonies you want to divide? Wait until after a good rain but you can start dividing them now through September. Bury the root “eyes” no more than an inch or two beneath the soil; if you bury them deeper the plants won’t flower. If you have to move peonies without rain, use a hose to soak the soil around the plant before you try to dig it up.

7.     You can also dig up daylilies and iris now to divide and re-plant. Again I would wait until after a good rain. If you still need to move them, at least water the area with a hose first so you don’t rip roots when you try to dig them up.

8.     Start saving seeds for next year. Marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers have a lot of seeds than can easily be stored.

9.     I am also developing new flower beds for next year by removing starts, adding cardboard and mulching.

10. Hot temperatures can prompt trees to drop leaves early. Leave leaves on the ground to return nitrogen to the soil. If you are worried about them sitting on grass, set your mower to a higher setting and cut them up when you mow. Leaves are a wonderful source of soil amendments. They also work well as mulch, helping to retain water when leaves are underground or under mulch.

Charlotte

How to Dead Head Plants

 A dry seed head on a Self Heal herb plant could be removed to encourage more flowers.(Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A dry seed head on a Self Heal herb plant could be removed to encourage more flowers.(Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

How to Dead Head Plants

Removing the spent flower heads on plants encourages the plant to produce more flowers. It also makes the plant look nicer and is the fastest way to improve the look of one's garden.

I do dead head plants in spring and early summer. Towards the end of summer and fall, however, I tend to leave the seed heads on so birds will have winter food. Many native plants are a ready source of food for wildlife including black eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, Autumn Sedum and perennial herbs.

Before snipping anything off, take a look at the plant and observe how it grows. Remove the dry seed head and whatever stem portion is dead above a growing bud. This should encourage the plant to grow in a more bushy form and produce more flowers.

One more note on removing spent plant seed heads. For years I used a variety of pruners, taking periodic breaks so that my hands didn't cramp up from all of the repetitive movement.

 Traditional pruners can easily clip off plant flower heads. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Traditional pruners can easily clip off plant flower heads. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now I have a couple of sewing thread snips dedicated to gardening. These work much faster and easier than pruners and I can rotate between my right and left hand.

 A pair of thread snips are easier and quicker to use to dead head plants. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A pair of thread snips are easier and quicker to use to dead head plants. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Spent flower plant heads can be stored in bags for use next year. They can also be composted.

Charlotte

July Gardening Chores

 Keep flowering plants and shrubs blooming by removing spent blooms, here I am using quilting thread snips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Keep flowering plants and shrubs blooming by removing spent blooms, here I am using quilting thread snips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

July Gardening Chores

Heat. It’s what drives every gardener this month, whether it’s making sure the garden gets an inch of moisture a week to stay cool or mulch to remain cool. Among the other chores for July, besides enjoying picking berries:

1.     Deadhead flowering plants. Removing spent blooms will help keep plants healthy and may even give you a second and third wave of flowers. I use sewing and quilting thread snips to quickly remove spent blooms.

2.     Remove weeds/unwanted plants. Unwanted plants take up nutrients, moisture and space away from desired plants. In this context, competition is not a good thing.

3.     Know your weeds. If you weren’t sure what it was before, whatever was growing should be showing its true identity by now. Many plants casually labeled weeds are forgotten herbs; others, like goldenrod, are blamed for what a true weed, ragweed does, which is aggravate allergies. And ragweed is a good plant, it only grows in very poor soil and adds nutrients to improve it before it dies off. Did I say know your weeds already??

4.     Give your garden one inch of water a week. When you water, use a watering wand or place the hose into the ground, no sprinkling. In hot summer weather, using sprinklers is a waste, the water just evaporates before it even hits the ground.

5.     Touch up mulch. Mulch will help keep garden beds cool. Make sure it’s aged mulch. If the mulch is steaming, it’s too young to use on flower beds.

6.     Keep your early morning dates with Japanese beetles. Catch them in soap-filled buckets to help reduce the population. Don’t try to catch them later in the day, they will just fly off.

7.     No more compost for woody plants, time for them to start hardening off and getting ready for winter.

8.     Don’t forget to water trees deeply, especially newly-planted trees and the oldest ones.

9.     Rambler roses done blooming? Prune.

10. How are your vines? My blackberries and clematis need a little help so I gauge their possible growth for the rest of this season and add support. Oh, I’m often wrong, the idea is just to give them extra support or it’s a mess trying to untangle them later. I usually wait until next year then and start with fresh growth.

 In record heat, keeping roots watered is the best way to help plants pull through. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In record heat, keeping roots watered is the best way to help plants pull through. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

11. I am starting to make new flower beds so I am hauling cardboard boxes home to get a good start. Once I line the beds with cardboard, I add mulch to start making the foundation of the bed. After the next rain, soil will be added, then another layer of mulch.

12. Start thinking about what needs to be done early next spring. I keep a list, check it twice…

13. The nearby composter will also get cleaned out. Not entirely, leave a good bucket-full as compost starter for the next batch.

14. Mowing grass? Don’t bag or rake clippings, they return Nitrogen to the soil.

15. Plant buckwheat in open areas. It’s not only a fast-growing, Nitrogen-introducing cover crop for garden spots, it also gives bees a source of food during August, when little else is in bloom.

Charlotte

 

 

Summer Watering Tips

 It's helpful to have a rain gauge to make sure your garden is getting at least 1" of water a week. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

It's helpful to have a rain gauge to make sure your garden is getting at least 1" of water a week. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Summer Watering Tips

With record hot temperatures hitting Missouri this summer, utility companies are setting up watering schedules and providing guidance on when someone can, and can't, water their lawns. Although those steps are helpful, there are several things gardeners can do to improve watering efficiency starting with how they water.

During our 2012 drought, I watered my garden with an underground wand, making sure the plant roots were hydrated. Even though the top of the plants died off, most of them grew again the following year because the roots had been kept alive through watering.

In addition, the flower beds were mulched, which helps keep moisture in the soil.

This year, as we head into another record hot summer, invest in two things: a watering wand and a rain gauge. The rain gauge will help you keep track of how much water your garden has had. The recommended amount is one inch a week.

The watering wand will ensure roots are kept watered and hydrated.

You can also use sprinkling systems but know that past 95F the water evaporates so plants do not get any relief.

 An underground wand is the best way to water a garden in the hot Missouri summer days. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

An underground wand is the best way to water a garden in the hot Missouri summer days. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In addition, you can add wet leaves around trees to make sure they get some water. A layer of mulch over wet leaves will make sure the water doesn't quickly evaporate.

Have beginning gardeners in your neighborhood? Consider a gardening kit as a gift, it can  keep basic gardening tools handy. If you don't have one, this is a good time to put one together and don't forget to add a rain gauge and watering wand.

What watering techniques do you use in hot summers?

Charlotte

Tiger Lilies

 Tiger lilies have started to bloom in my Missouri hillside garden, a sure sign of summer.

Tiger lilies have started to bloom in my Missouri hillside garden, a sure sign of summer.

Tiger Lilies

If there is one plant that marks the beginning of the hot summer Missouri season, it's tiger lilies in bloom.

These very old-fashioned lilies survive in most drought conditions, their flowers swinging from on top of 4-5 foot stems.

Tiger lily flowers (Lilium lancifolium or Lilium tigrinum) propagate through black bubils in the axils above the leaves. That may explain why I have a number of plants scattered throughout my flower beds, their little seed starts scattered by wind and my carelessly knocking the bubils over when I walked close by.

Growing tiger lilies involves planting the bubils and waiting, as it may be five years before these produce tiger lily flowers. If you have tiger lilies growing in your existing garden, keep them happy with soil amendments. I give them a handful of aged compost followed by mulch every year.

I think about moving the various ones scattered around the garden so they are all together but the soil is usually so hard and dry mid-summer in Missouri. I think I will wait for more plants to grow where the original ones area, that's much easier!

In the meantime, time to make another one of our charming baby jungle quilts, I think of tiger lilies having faces every time I see them!

Charlotte

Darling Daylilies

 Originally from China, Missouri's ditch lilies are the basis for all hybrid daylilies on the market today. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Originally from China, Missouri's ditch lilies are the basis for all hybrid daylilies on the market today. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Darling Daylilies

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 soil. Some areas today still have the descendants of those first plants, so thick now I need to thin them out if I am going to see flowers in that part of the garden again.

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.”

 Daylily buds, left, and the open flowers are delicious additions to salads. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daylily buds, left, and the open flowers are delicious additions to salads. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

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. I like them on this handmade wildflowers quilt, too!

Charlotte

 

Dreaded Bush Honeysuckle

 Bush honeysuckle can grow very big, these are growing along my road inside city limits.

Bush honeysuckle can grow very big, these are growing along my road inside city limits.

Dreaded Bush Honeysuckle

If I could drive down my lane with my eyes closed, I would. As much as I love anything green and growing, I have a hard time looking at all of the invasive Bush honeysuckle currently in full bloom.

It’s the proverbial dilemma of beauty versus damage to native natural communities. A friend of mine has carefully pruned Bush Honeysuckle shrubs all around her property, only to wonder now why nothing is growing under them but she won’t believe it’s the lovely bush honeysuckle.

 The bush honeysuckle flowers look similar to the native fragrant honeysuckle vines.

The bush honeysuckle flowers look similar to the native fragrant honeysuckle vines.

Bush honeysuckle produces a chemical that inhibits everything that grows under and within close proximity to its roots. A native of Asia, Bush honeysuckle produces leaves earlier in the spring and holds on to them late in autumn, giving it a decided competitive advantage over many native plants.

In addition, the Bush Honeysuckle entices birds with their bright red berries, ensuring that their seeds are widely scattered even though the berries themselves don’t offer birds much in terms of food value.

Some communities now sponsor Bush honeysuckle removal days, mobilizing volunteers to yank, pull, cut – whatever it takes – to remove the plants.

 You can easily pull young bush honeysuckle out of the ground after a good rain.

You can easily pull young bush honeysuckle out of the ground after a good rain.

I started my own battle against Bush honeysuckle several years ago when a former office colleague came over early spring and helped me cut down the largest bushes. As he cut the larger branches I yanked at the 1-3 year starts, quickly creating a huge pile of greenery that overwhelmed my three empty composters.

I continue the battle, waiting for days after a good rain to walk through my hillside garden and yank at all of the plant starts I can find.

 This pile of bush honeysuckle were yanked out of the ground and are now in the compost pile.

This pile of bush honeysuckle were yanked out of the ground and are now in the compost pile.

For those plants that have tried to escape my attention, red yarn decorates their trunks so that they are targeted for removal once my handyman brings his chain saw over for a day. I have my own chainsaw but my brother David made it clear I was not to use it on my own. It’s good advice, I’ve been known to unbeknownst to myself at the time stab myself with a trowel. Or a bread knife.

Missouri Department of Conservation suggests the best time to tackle these plants is fall, after leaves fall, when their sap is receding and one can apply any one of those site-specific weed killers. Since I have honeybees, I don’t use those products on my property, relegating me to the ongoing battle of pulling the plants as often as I can and denying them an opportunity to produce berries.

These plants grow almost everywhere: lake and stream banks, marshes, fens, sedge meadows, wet and dry prairies, savannas, floodplain and upland forests and woodlands.

A recently introduced pest, the European Honeysuckle aphid, somewhat controls flower and fruit production in some of the bush honeysuckles. Heavy bug infestations cause tips of branches to form "witches' brooms" or deformed twigs, often greatly reducing fruit production. Native ladybug beetles, however, have been noted to control the aphids.

Guess this will continue to be my battle as long as I don’t drive myself off the road!

Charlotte

Miniature Roses

 Miniature roses are shrub roses that are easy to grow and continuously bloom most of the season.

Miniature roses are shrub roses that are easy to grow and continuously bloom most of the season.

Miniature Roses

Of all of the garden flowers I grow, one of my favorites are the miniature rose varieties. They come in a wide range of colors; are relatively hardy; bloom profusely when planted in the right conditions and are easy to incorporate into desk-friendly cut flower arrangements.

Most of my miniature roses were giveaways from community lunches, friends gardens and garden sales. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are favorite holidays for giving roses so the weeks afterwards are a good time to check for marked down plants. Focus on the health of the plant and leaves, you can always cut off the spent flowers and encourage new budding.

Plant miniature roses where they will get at least 6 hours of morning sun in a southern exposure in well-composted soil. Miniature roses are shallow-rooted so I mix in shredded leaves to help them retain water.

Once planted, add mulch and leave the area under the plant clear 4-6" of mulch.

During the growing season, I give my roses a banana peel, crushed egg shells, used coffee grounds and a dash of epson salts in between doses of fresh compost mixed into the soil around them.

 Miniature roses are also charming cut flowers, the perfect size for desk arrangements.

Miniature roses are also charming cut flowers, the perfect size for desk arrangements.

Once you get your first miniature rose growing well, the flowers will bloom for weeks on the plant, another wonderful reason to add these hardy perennials to your garden.

Miniature roses are hardy outside in USDA zone 5 and up.

Charlotte

September Gardening Chores

 Plant new flower beds with a cover crop to keep the soil well conditioned. Buckwheat grows fast, has a lovely white flower and can easily be mulched. It is also a good fall pollen source for bees.

Plant new flower beds with a cover crop to keep the soil well conditioned. Buckwheat grows fast, has a lovely white flower and can easily be mulched. It is also a good fall pollen source for bees.

September Gardening Chores

Where has the time gone? It’s almost fall, another season, time to start getting the garden ready for winter.

If you have been fertilizing, it is time to stop. Plants need to start slowing down and get out of the growth they usually pursue through spring and summer, even without the boost of fertilizers. Add a last dollop of compost mixed in the soil and that should be it for this season.

Do keep watering trees and shrubs from now through hard frost. In USDA Zone 5b, our first hard frost is usually mid to end of October.

Start cleaning up flower beds and vegetable gardens by removing spent plants and saving seeds.  Leave the ragweed to treat the soil, they will die once their work is done.

If you plan to start a new garden next year, do the soil preparation now so the area will be ready for any planting you are planning to do early next spring.

For later use, plan on bringing some of your herbs inside include parsley, chives, rosemary and stevia. Basil can also be brought inside; sow seeds now to get new plants started for later use.

Good time to move peonies. I have several I buried the eyes too deep so when replanting, remember to not bury any more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface. Daylilies and iris can also be dug up and divided now.

Make notes in your garden diary about to dos for next year. Note what plants worked well this year, what seeds you had meant to plant but didn’t get to – whatever you want to tackle next year.

Have favorite annuals? I do, too, and I trim them now before bringing them inside. You can also take root cuttings and start young plants if you have good indoor light. 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.

Order spring bulbs. Daffodils are toxic to deer so they won’t get munched on. Tulips are not so buy a few for color, then plant them behind a solid wall with wire if you don’t want wildlife snacking on them in the meantime.

If you have left over Amaryllis bulbs, put them in a dry, dark place without water and let them rest for a couple of months. If you want to time when they bloom, pot and water them 6 weeks prior to when you want them in bloom.

 Cut herbs to dry for later use. Catnip is a favorite cat treat around my house so this is the first herb I cut to dry for winter enjoyment by my pets. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cut herbs to dry for later use. Catnip is a favorite cat treat around my house so this is the first herb I cut to dry for winter enjoyment by my pets. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Start trimming plants you plan to bring inside to overwinter.

My deck is starting to get covered in leaves so I am sweeping them off to the composter and getting those emptied onto the flower beds. Don’t bag and rake clippings, leave them on your lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil.

This is also a good time to stock up on mulch. Buy it in bulk or load up at your local recycling center before they close down for the season.

Charlotte

Garden Visitors

 Grasshopper on Double Delight blooming rose at Bluebird Gardens.

Grasshopper on Double Delight blooming rose at Bluebird Gardens.

Garden Visitors

I'm either getting a little particular or a little spoiled, maybe both. When I see a flower in bloom, I am a tad disappointed if it doesn't have a visitor of some sort.

Over the years, my chemical-free wildlife garden has been teeming with bugs, from those who make their home next to mine to the honeybees I invited to join us about 7 years ago. 

The bees spurred my interest in seeing who and what was visiting flowers, in part to see what variety interests them and when. My gardening buddy Tom and I compare notes on what flowers our honeybees are on, although to this day he seems quite put out that his bees don't like to visit his goldenrod while mine do. Missouri has 22 different species of goldenrod blooming from June through September so it may be we have different species blooming but it's fun to get Tom riled up. Well, as riled as Tom will every get, I suspect.

My first garden visitor to capture my interest was a ladybug - a real one, not the Eastern Japanese beetles - that rode into my house on my left garden boot. I gently picked her up and took her back outside, wondering if she had found a supply of aphids to keep her well-fed.

It was a nice memory when earlier this summer I was working with my brother in his Virginia garden. We had just wrapped it up for the day when he came into the kitchen where I was talking to his wife, a towel wrapped around his waist, and he handed me a ladybug that had accompanied him inside. As the big sister, there was a tinge of pride that I had corrupted him early.

Having a camera in hand has encouraged my quest for the garden visitor. When I walk through my garden with my camera, my eye is drawn to the movement of garden visitors, as if they are paying my flowers their respects. Some flowers entertain a lot of insects all at once, others like this Double Delight hybrid tea rose welcome one visitor at a time.

Regardless, it's fun to quietly watch interaction between the flowers and bugs. There is no doubt watching the garden visitors that we are all connected!

Charlotte

Runaway Cucumbers

 My cucumbers are growing in pots on the second floor deck facing west.

My cucumbers are growing in pots on the second floor deck facing west.

Runaway Cucumbers

I was walking around my garden one morning and, at the top of the hill, I spotted my cucumbers trying to run away.

Actually they weren't running, they were more like meandering out of their deck pots and making a relatively leisurely track down the deck.

This was my first year to grow cucumbers from seeds in my pot garden, or my vertical deck garden for those people who look quizzically at me when I call it a pot garden. I grow only vegetables and some herbs but calling it a pot garden offers some exciting possibilities.

 Both cucumber plants are outgrowing their pots and need more support.

Both cucumber plants are outgrowing their pots and need more support.

When I checked the deck, the cucumber plants had definitely wound their way around the small white trellises in each pot and moved over the railing. Or in the case of one of the plants, through the side of the railing.

For next year, I will have to use larger trellises to keep the cucumber plants happy.

Duly noted!

Charlotte

Surprise Lilies

Surprise lilies budding at Bluebird Gardens.

Surprise Lilies

Several friends have told me they are a bit worried this year. Their surprise lilies Lycoris squamigera have popped up earlier than usual, they said, starting to bloom mid-July as opposed to early August. Is this one of those signs that winter will also be earlier than usual?

Also called Resurrection lilies, mine also started to pop up mid-July but, as I told them, the plant name suggests trying to time when these perennials bloom is probably not a good idea. After all, it’s supposed to be unexpected, isn’t it?

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, plants in the genus Lycoris are sometimes commonly called resurrection flower, surprise lily or magic lily because the leaves disappear in summer with the flower spikes seemingly rising from the dead in late summer.

And while I am on the background of this delightful plant family , the genus name Lycoris is in honor of Mark Anthony’s mistress, and it wasn’t Cleopatra.

North America's Amaryllis Cousin

Surprise lilies are north American cousins to the Amaryllis we tend to see for sale around Christmas.  The Christmas Amaryllis won’t survive our Midwest winters but surprise lilies are perennials in our USDA zone 5b growing area.

Surprise lily leaves appear in spring, collecting energy through those leaves and storing it in the below ground bulbs, then turning the leaves yellow and dying off. Then mid-summer, seemingly all of a sudden, a green stalk with buds at the top appear, heralding the arrival of what some people also call the “naked ladies.”

The princess pink aromatic flowers last several days as cut flowers.  The green stems will curl up at the bottom of a flower vase, forming an interesting artistic pattern all of their own.

Cut surprise lilies in a vase at Bluebird Gardens.

Surprise lilies have been a popular landscaping addition for a number of decades in the Midwest and sometimes mark abandoned homesteads.

How to Care for Surprise Lilies

If you have surprise lilies in your garden, or are given bulbs to plant, these are relatively low maintenance.

Surprise lily bulbs should be separated every 5 years or so or they will grow too thick to bloom.

The best time to move surprise lily bulbs is right after they bloom. I have also successfully moved surprise lilies as the green leaves were dying off mid-spring. Regardless of when you dig them up, start a good 5 inches from the edge of where you think the bulbs are so you don’t cut into the bulbs.

If the ground is dry, wet it down first before digging up the bulbs to minimize damage to roots.

Transplant to an area with room to grow. I mix compost and some aged mulch into the soil to help the bulbs get a good start once they are ready to grow.

I also try to plant them where I will remember they are located so I am not digging into them later thinking this is a free spot to plant something else.

Intersperse surprise lilies with pink phlox and plant them behind daylilies and iris, which provide the plants some cover as they bloom.

Charlotte

August Gardening Chores

 In hot weather, the best way to water your garden is with an underground wand (back) or by pressing the hose head into the ground so the water reaches plant roots.

In hot weather, the best way to water your garden is with an underground wand (back) or by pressing the hose head into the ground so the water reaches plant roots.

August Gardening Chores

I don’t plant anything in my garden in August.  The soil in USDA zone 5b is so dry in Missouri, few plants will survive even if watered so I just skip doing much planting. I also try not to watch as some of my plants fry under the hot sun but I know if I can keep the roots wet, they will come back later this year, or next:

1.     Water plants at root level, which means no sprinklers. Use underground wands and move them to saturate soil. Gardens need an inch of rain a week. Don’t forget established shrubs and older trees, they also need moisture delivered to their roots to make sure they make it through the record hot August temperatures.

2.     Water potted plants daily; if temperatures are once again hitting record levels, maybe twice a day and move them into shade. Add compost to keep the potted soil healthy.

3.     If you didn’t get to planting your garden this year, at least toss a few buckwheat seeds to help improve your soil. Buckwheat will sprout in about 6 weeks and will be welcome fall food for pollinators as well.

4.     If you haven’t been using your fresh herbs, this is a good time to start. Most may have flowered and lost some of their potency but they still can be added to salads and other summer dishes. Rosemary and chamomile can be harvested and used in bloom. I chop up and freeze some of mine in ice cubes for winter use in soups.

5.     My tomatoes set late this year but they are finally ripening. Try to keep them evenly watered to minimize cracking.

6.     Have peonies you want to divide? Wait until after a good rain but you can start dividing them now through September. Bury the root “eyes” no more than an inch or two beneath the soil; if you bury them deeper the plants won’t flower. If you have to move peonies without rain, use a hose to soak the soil around the plant before you try to dig it up.

7.     You can also dig up daylilies and iris now to divide and re-plant. Again I would wait until after a good rain. Remember to use gardening gloves so your hands don't get cracked. If you still need to move the plants, at least water the area with a hose first so you don’t rip roots when you try to dig them up.

8.     Start saving seeds for next year. Marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers have a lot of seeds than can easily be stored.

9.     I am also developing new flower beds for next year by removing starts, adding cardboard and mulching.

 These Black-eyed Susans have settled in well with the help of wet leaves under mulch.

These Black-eyed Susans have settled in well with the help of wet leaves under mulch.

10. Hot temperatures can prompt trees to drop leaves early. Leave leaves on the ground to return nitrogen to the soil. If you are worried about them sitting on grass, set your mower to a higher setting and cut them up when you mow. Leaves are a wonderful source of soil amendments. They also work well as mulch, helping to retain water when leaves are underground or under mulch.

Charlotte

Yellow Mums in Bloom

 Yellow mums in bloom mid-July at Bluebird Gardens, a little early but at least not leggy.

Yellow mums in bloom mid-July at Bluebird Gardens, a little early but at least not leggy.

Yellow Mums in Bloom

It's easy to take fall mums for granted, those little autumn blooming flowers unless you have tried to make the plants form those little mounds all by yourself. I gave that up years ago, settling instead for having just non-spindly chrysanthemums in bloom whenever they were ready.

The professional advice is to pinch the mums once a week through July 4th. The pinching keeps the plant low and bushy, as well as branching so that there are more flowers in bloom. That is also supposed to delay blooming so the mums bloom on cue during their designated blooming month in the fall. 

I do pinch most of my mums through spring, but not all. I leave a few to grow long and leggy so that I can include them in flower bouquets. The short, stout branches are hard to manage in a vase and that is a shame because mums are one of the longer-lasting cut flowers. It's why they are a popular addition in floral bouquets, they tend to be the last flowers to die off when the rest of the cut flowers have faded.

So it's early August with record summer heat and some of my mums have decided to bloom. This yellow one in particular is having a good time so yes, I am doing absolutely nothing about it. I could trim off the flower buds and try to delay flowering until later but I am not going to touch it.

Some plants bloom slower in hot weather. That's what I am telling myself as I enjoy the bright sunny flowers popping up a good couple of months early. Did I mention I love surprises?

Charlotte

 

Mystery Plants

 The corner of my driveway retaining wall where the corner of my eye caught a mystery plant.

The corner of my driveway retaining wall where the corner of my eye caught a mystery plant.

Mystery Plants

Do you ever walk around your garden and catch a plant out of the corner of your eye you swear you didn't plant there? 

Happens to me all of the time. So often, my certified wildlife garden should be called the "However Garden," as in "Phlox like sun. In my garden, however, they chose to grow in part shade."

I have a lot of examples of plants confirming they don't read gardening books and defying odds so it shouldn't be surprising to find something growing where I didn't plant it. Only this was a brand new spot I had just carefully mulched. I knew the area well and I didn't remember seeing anything green around where I had mulched so why was there something definitely green there now??

 No, not the onions on the left, I planted those to keep bugs off the rose tree, on the right.

No, not the onions on the left, I planted those to keep bugs off the rose tree, on the right.

I stopped and went back for a closer look.

The green onions were growing well on the left. I planted those a good month or so ago to help keep bugs off the white tree roses I found on sale. Towards the end of the season, I will harvest those for my last fresh salads, if I remember. If not, I may have an early start on next year, depends on how mild next winter is.

Look to the right of the tree rose.

 There, to the right of the rose tree. A bunch of little green sprouts bunched together.

There, to the right of the rose tree. A bunch of little green sprouts bunched together.

Those are some kind of seeds that have sprouted, and I know I didn't plant those there.

 Those look suspiciously like sunflower seed seedlings.

Those look suspiciously like sunflower seed seedlings.

As I peered closely at those seedlings, I knew exactly who had been gardening in my new driveway retaining wall. Squirrels, storing sunflower seeds from the bird feeders.

Since spotting this first little stash of seedlings, I have found a number of them in other spots around the garden. If they are left undisturbed, the squirrels, or maybe chipmunks, should have a nice crop of sunflowers by fall.

Gives new meaning to a wildlife garden, doesn't it.

Charlotte

Summer Gardening Must Haves

 My summer gardening basket of must haves sits by my den door so I don't forget things.

My summer gardening basket of must haves sits by my den door so I don't forget things.

Summer Gardening Must Haves

The hot dog days of summer are here in Missouri. At around 2 p.m. earlier today I found myself "wimping out" of spending time in my garden, unheard of if you could see all of the work that still needs to get done. I mean, is a garden ever really finished??

I sheepishly put away my pruners, dusted off my hat and snuck into the house hoping none of my neighbors would see me. Then I thought this is ridiculous, it's hot, I'm retired and I'm done for the day. A friend's posting of her thermometer in the porch shade sealed the deal - 104.5F, and it's only mid July.

According to the Climate Change Institute in Columbia, Missouri, the trend will be for us to have longer springs, hotter summers, longer falls and milder, shorter winters with less snow. So far we definitely had a milder winter and longer spring. Not looking forward to a hotter Missouri August, the ones in previous decades were nothing to celebrate, the Missouri Botanical Garden calls it the "dearth," when most of Missouri's plants go into survival mode, or die off all together. It's not good news for bees, with colonies at their highest populations for the year left without a source of food.

As our climate rapidly changes, we are also seeing more ticks, bigger poison ivy plants and the obvious, exposure to more dangerous sun rays. To remind myself to protect myself before I head into the weedier parts of my garden, I set up this basket of "must haves" I keep by my den door.

 Bug spray, sunblock, water, neck towel - and don't forget a gardening hat - are must haves!

Bug spray, sunblock, water, neck towel - and don't forget a gardening hat - are must haves!

The basket has the following, all must haves to survive the hotter summer temperatures:

30 Sunblock or higher

Bug off

Extra pair of socks to fend off the aggressive poison ivy vines

Clear Caladryl for those spots that get exposure

Gardening gloves

Neck towel

Small bottle of water

Two plastic bags in case the gloves tear

Muslin kitchen towel to wrap around my head

Garden hat (out of picture)

I also wear sunglasses but if you don't regularly wear glasses, add a pair to your basket.

No need to spend a lot of money on the basket, I picked this one up at one of our local thrift stores for $1. No, wait, it cost me $2, this was the second basket I bought because my cats appropriated the first one as a napping spot.

Charlotte