Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pick a Plant Pick!

Around Christmastime the usual star performers appear on the scene… pretty poinsettias displaying red, ivory, pink or speckled bracts, with an occasional holly plant making an appearance.   Often a dramatic red amaryllis plant takes center stage.  But don’t exclude members of the supporting cast— your houseplants

Check the condition of each plant you are considering as a member of the supporting cast.  Only your best specimens should be exhibited with your holiday d├ęcor; they need just a little “holiday help” in order to perform well.   You might add a large bow for a pop of color.  My favorite inexpensive makeover is to pick a plant pick!  (You might already have a few plant picks tucked away with Christmas ornaments; they are easily reused from year to year.)  

If you choose to purchase new plant picks, they are readily available at floral gift shops and online.   Often plant picks are sold for under $10 each.

A wide variety of plant picks awaits you—each ready to sparkle and command attention when tucked into a potted plant.   Some picks feature glitter ribbon and other sparkly elements.  Some feature pine cones with red or green ribbons.  I even have a brown metal-art butterfly that makes a quick cameo appearance during the holiday season, by simply tucking it into an ordinary houseplant.

Plant picks vary in size from one to three feet tall.  Choose a pick that is proportionate to each potted plant; then find a special place in your home to exhibit those plants… separately or together, they will perform nicely for you!

Remember to water your plants occasionally during December… it’s easy to forget about them with all your extra activities this month.   Enjoy the Christmas season!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October's Peak Performers

The autumn season in Southeastern Wisconsin is usually pleasant and pretty… but the interesting color hues are usually attributed to a variety of hardwoods that thrive here.

Sugar maples, as well as a variety of maple cultivars, contribute to the fall landscape along with deep red sumac, oaks and an assortment of trees.
With all those trees donning their fall wardrobe, it might be easy to overlook other plantings in our autumn landscape.  Shrubs, perennials and annuals contribute color and texture at eye level and ground level; these plantings are also peak performers during October.  A few of my personal favorites:

In the shrub category, I’m impressed with blooms on Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ which is pictured here.  The genus Hydrangea has a variety of offerings for your enjoyment during autumn:  ‘Pinky Winky,’ ‘White Diamonds,’ ‘Little Limelight.’   Each cultivar produces white or light blooms during summer, but the dramatic colors arrive in autumn (shades of pink, burgundy, green, tan).   Dried blooms can be incorporated into floral arrangements as well—with or without a wisp of spray paint on the blooms!

In the perennial category, an obvious autumn charmer is Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop. This plant is monochromatic during summer—usually a light green— but the stems are sturdy and support developing flower heads.  When fall arrives, the deep pinkish blooms appear and mature to a copper color.   Although I grow a few types of tall sedum, ‘Autumn Joy’ is my favorite during October.

In the annuals category, I can’t resist these dainty ornamental peppers called Capsicum annuum ‘Twilight.’  After purchasing seeds in New Mexico and planting those seeds in early MAY, I was impressed with their performance all summer long.  They formed tiny upright peppers in early JULY, which were purple and pretty!  Later, purple faded and red-orange colorants emerged; ‘Twilight’ provides a spark of color in the autumn landscape.  (After these peppers die from frost, I will toss them under our shrubs to deter critters from munching on stems during winter.  ‘Twilight’ is rated higher than 30,000 units on the Scoville heat scale.)

M. Lynn Schmid,  Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pleasing those Pollinators!

A garden can be a butterfly banquet, providing you offer a colorful array of nectar-and-pollen rich host plants for butterflies to feast upon. Butterflies (and other beneficial pollinators) provide a vital function in the garden, pollinating flowers and vegetables as they flutter among the plants.

This afternoon our backyard garden had a variety of winged visitors… hummingbirds, yellow swallowtails, and bumblebees. Each visitor was drawn to the Monarda blooms, which provide nectar and pollen for all. My favorite cultivar of Monarda is ‘Raspberry Wine’ (hardy to Zone 4) with its vivid magenta flowers that invite pollinators during the hottest weeks of summer. Monarda, also known as bee balm, stands nearly four feet tall and grows aggressively so requires some space in the garden. (It has square stems which can be an indication the plant will spread. The ‘Raspberry Wine’ cultivar thrives in a sunny location and is also resistant to powdery mildew.)

Besides butterflies, bumblebees hover over the Monarda blossoms, gathering nectar and pollen granules continuously. I watched a yellow swallowtail for several minutes, gathering nectar from various flowers; she wasn’t deterred by the bumblebees. These bees have velvety bodies which are ideal for collecting pollen and moving it from blossom to blossom. If you watch closely, sometimes bumblebees use a vibrating technique to loosen pollen granules, allowing them to collect more pollen.
Each gardener can assist our bees, hummingbirds and pollinators by planting pollen-rich plants, as well as host plants for female butterflies to deposit eggs. Ideally, a succession of blooms throughout the growing season will keep these desirable pollinators coming back to YOUR space. (One of my horticulture instructors taught us to include flowering perennials within the borders of the veggie garden. This keeps pollinators coming back to your garden. Thanks for the great tip, Ms. Laurie Weiss!) Here are a few pollinator attracting plants: coneflower, milkweed, geranium, liatris, hyssop, lavender and… monarda!

M. Lynn Schmid,
Certified Master Gardener A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Join us for our Fireflys & Fairies event TONIGHT! 5-8pm

Join us for a summer evening in our gardens! Wear your wings, play some games, see the trains & get your face painted too! 
Create your fairy garden at our workshop with your family!

FREE admission to this event :)
See u soon!