Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas! Enjoy :)


Sipping Tea and Perusing Seed Catalogs

With our first rockin’ snowstorm of the season behind us, in Southeast Wisconsin we are quite confident we’ll enjoy a sparkly, bright, white Christmas this year.  In the days ahead, each of us will celebrate the season in our own personal ways… enjoying family traditions, celebrating with friends and coworkers, cooking and baking family specialties, observing the sparkle in the eyes of our children and grandchildren.

Although the Christmas season lends itself to religious and secular celebrations, the hectic pace that consumes us during December usually slips away as we ease into January.  (I have learned to appreciate the slower pace of January… more time to reorganize, redesign our landscape, and review the newest seed catalogs.)

I once read the nicest activity in January (for a gardener) is sipping tea, while perusing seed catalogs. Whether you preferring calming chamomile tea, green tea, peppermint or the Earl Grey variety, TEA is a quiet celebration for one.Tea is the ideal beverage to sip while you leaf through catalogs displaying photos of vibrant flowers and scrumptious veggies.  Each delightful photo and description brings closer the promise of a new growing season.   As you read, tiny sparks of sunlight peek through an ice encrusted window pane, but the flower photos draw you in, reminding you that starting in late December, each day offers a bit more daylight, and warmer days are coming soon.

So brew another cup of hot tea, sit in a comfy chair, and page through your new seed catalogs. Seize the moment AND the month… January can be a special time!

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

 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go Green ~ with a living Christmas tree!


A Living Christmas Tree… a very good thing

Decorating at holiday time using a living Christmas tree is both special and “green.”  A living tree is not the same as a cut tree, which was once living but has been severed from its root system.  A living tree still has its root system attached and is growing in soil in a small container.  When the Christmas season has passed, you still have a lovely tree to plant in your yard as a reminder of your Christmas memories.

Since living Christmas trees are typically small specimens (2.5’ to 3’ tall), you won’t need many ornaments to decorate it.  If you prefer tiny lights, one string of 50 – 100 lights should be sufficient.  If you plan to display your tree on an outdoor deck, you can place a few ornaments on it that are visible from inside your home.  If you prefer a “green” décor instead, simply make bird-attracting ornaments like pinecones tied with string and rolled in peanut butter and birdseed.

Some people select a living Christmas tree in memory of a loved one… the tree can be placed in your yard and, if you wish, you might decorate it with ornaments reminiscent of the favorite color of your loved one.  (In spring, you will remove all ornaments from your tree before placing it in your chosen location.)

Colorado blue spruce and Serbian spruce are examples of trees that work nicely for Christmas decor; later they are “repurposed” as an element of your landscape. Many of our Lammscapes’ customers have successfully planted living Christmas trees during the past decade.   A few hints to ensure success:  
If kept indoors during Christmas season, a maximum of 10 days to two weeks! Keep away from heat vents and fireplaces or heaters.  Then tree must be taken outside to re-acclimate to colder temps; can keep in garage , but please WATER!

If kept outdoors on display, keep it wet, and wrap root zone in layers of burlap fabric.  Wind dessication is the enemy of conifers/evergreens, so storing tree out of the wind is most helpful.    When soil is workable in springtime, just dig hole, plant and fertilize the young tree, and enjoy watching it thrive and grow taller!
M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mini Pumpkins.... NOT mini plants!



Mini pumpkins grow nicely in a home garden and produce tiny orange bits of joy in late summer, early fall.  Though these pumpkins are just a few inches in diameter, they grow on large vines which require significant space in your garden.  In June 2012, I planted more than twenty mini pumpkin seeds (from the genus Cucurbita)  and anchored a substantial wooden trellis for their support .  Plants were watered (at the base) frequently due to prevalence of scorching summer days during this growing season, and the seedlings thrived.  Soon the tiny tendrils along each vine began to grab onto the trellis and moved onward and upward.

During drought, some plant species will abort their blossoms and fruit in order to preserve the primary plant, I wasn’t sure these vines would produce the tiny pumpkins I love.  Luckily, the vines produced a plethora of vivid yellow blossoms, and bees continuously worked among the pumpkin flowers.   I was pleased our hearty vines “gave birth” to four dozen delightful mini pumpkins in AUG/SEPT.

If you are thinking about growing mini pumpkins next season, consider the space required for a successful crop.  Even with a vertical support available, tenacious vines also traveled horizontally and encroached upon other plants in their vicinity.  Also, since pumpkins are open pollinated, you should not plant other varieties of pumpkin or squash nearby.  (Long ago I made this mistake and the unsightly “mutant” pumpkins produced were the result of cross pollination.) 

Growing mini pumpkins is especially fun for children since they watch the progression of growth, and one day they can harvest the tiny orange bits of joy.

NOTE:  If you do not have significant space available in your home garden, just stop in at Lammscapes in Jackson, WI to buy your decorative and delightful Jack-Be-Little mini pumpkins!  They are only $1 each and can be used in your autumn décor by themselves, or along with an assortment of winged gourds and funky pumpkins,  available for you during October.

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Plant Fall Bulbs NOW - for Spring color!


Daffodils… plant now, enjoy later!

Cool nights in early September summon our attention, hinting that autumn is near.  The onset of autumn presents another gardening “to do” list: continue harvesting veggies, divide and cut back perennials, plant bulbs for spring bloom.

Daffodils, along with tulips and grape hyacinths, contribute to the early springtime kaleidoscope of colors present in our flower beds… a color explosion we eagerly anticipate as winter begins to release its grip on our gardens.  The planning and planting efforts we put forth in autumn will yield colorful rewards next spring… consider adding a variety of daffodils to your current design layout.  Daffodils (genus Narcissus) are available in creamy whites, saffron yellows, and two-tone varieties; some are miniatures, while others grow to a height of twelve inches or more.

If your garden is a luncheon buffet for deer and rabbits, daffodils are a great alternative to tulips (a.k.a. “deer candy”). Daffodils contain a natural substance which is a deterrent to deer and rabbits, so they should not bother the blooms.

Daffodil bulbs will multiply underground, so every few years, you will have an abundance of new bulbs begging to be planted in a new location in your garden, or shared with a friend.  Daffodils can thrive in fairly neutral pH soil (6.0 – 7.0) and aren’t particular about soil type.  However, if you have a heavy clay-based soil in your garden, you may wish to add organic matter (NOT sand) to provide a safe haven for your bulbs.   Ideal planting depth is 7” – 8” for daffodils and I like to plant in clusters of five to nine bulbs.  Cover with an inch of loose soil containing organic matter and a sprinkling of granular bulb food.  Fill in remaining soil and top with cedar mulch shavings (2” – 3” layer is desirable); finally, water.

With the arrival of spring, your newly planted daffodil bulbs will emerge as slender green leaves, followed by a bounty of blooms for your enjoyment!

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

 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chicago Botanic Garden ... a haven or a heaven?


Chicago Botanic Garden … a haven or a heaven?

The flowers in bloom at Chicago Botanic were amazing on July 25, 2007 (my first visit to this exquisite collection of gardens).   The first time I laid eyes on this incredible place, I was smitten.  The garden has beckoned me to return countless times since 2007, and each season is unique, providing lovely venues for visitors.  

When Laurie Lamm of Lammscapes suggested arranging a bus tour to Chicago Botanic on July 25, 2012, I was thrilled to participate!  Exactly five years after my first visit, I was able to accompany thirty gardening aficionados to Glencoe, IL, so each could enjoy a variety of vistas throughout the 385-acre living plant museum and wildlife haven.   2012 also marks the 40th anniversary of Chicago Botanic.

Specialty gardens are scattered throughout the islands which comprise Chicago Botanic.  You may enjoy the newest exhibit for 2012, Butterflies & Blooms, where butterflies might land on your hand… or your hat.   Butterflies (in their pupa stage) are shipped from several continents, all destined for Chicago Botanic in IL. There is a model railroad garden featuring “G” scale trains and buildings to please train enthusiasts.  The Japanese Garden and English Walled Garden offer  sensational groupings of plants, paying homage to their respective countries.  

An amazing Vegetable Garden invites you to walk through, as well as a Sensory Garden and an Enabling Garden.  Horticulturists, volunteers and a dedicated staff at Chicago Botanic help ensure the plants are happy and healthy; and visitors receive a free detailed map to guide them as they meander through this horticultural heaven.  (Admission is free to the garden, but a parking fee applies.)

Members of our tour group commented they found unique design ideas and discovered plants they could incorporate into their personal spaces at home.  If our crazy, hectic world is getting the best of you, spend a day at Chicago Botanic; then YOU decide, is it a haven or a heaven?

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Some like it HOT!"


Do you like the hot weather? Some plants do too!

Dry, hot weather has dominated Southeastern Wisconsin for several weeks, causing gardeners to spend hours each day watering their parched plantings, as they strive to maintain annuals and perennials, shrubs and trees.  Although many plants struggle with our pseudo-tropical weather, some LIKE it hot!   Various herbs handle sunshine and hot temps, as long as they receive adequate moisture.

Watering culinary herbs frequently is recommended to produce succulent, flavorful leaves to enhance your favorite recipes.  Depending upon your soil type, you may need to shower your herbs once daily (or twice daily if they are in terra-cotta pots which allow roots to dry rather quickly).  Your efforts will be rewarded when herbs are abundant and you can harvest for tonight’s dinner, or dry them for use in your own spice blends.

Whenever possible, harvest herbs BEFORE they put forth flowers (some herbs become bitter if they are harvested after seed pods or flowers are present).  Of course, sweet basil in flower or a sprig of oregano with dainty purple blossoms can still be used to garnish an entrée, but as a flavoring agent, it’s past its prime. 

If you are growing a selection of BASIL in your herb garden, consider making pesto using a combination of various cultivars of basil. (Purple-leaf basil is quite lovely, but don’t combine with green basil leaves or your pesto will be a gruesome gray!)

Basil Pesto   (Add some to cooked linguine or rotini and serve hot; can freeze leftover pesto for future use.  NOTE:  pesto is quite potent-- more is NOT better!)
2 cups basil leaves, washed (can use a few varieties of basil for depth of flavor)
2 – 3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced thin (approx one tablespoon)
1/3 cup  pine nuts (might be labeled as pignoli; can substitute walnuts)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine all ingredients using blender or food processor; add salt to taste. Please store in fridge or freezer until ready to use.
M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Monday, June 11, 2012

"What? Again?!"


A delightful, dainty, dwarf iris… ‘What Again’

There is nothing typical about THIS bearded iris!  Sword-like foliage grows to a height of just 10” – 12”  (not 24” – 36”  like an ordinary iris).   The showy blossom presents lower petals in soft yellow, with upright petals in shades of lavender.  

‘What Again’ may seem like a peculiar name for a cultivar, but it makes sense when you understand it will bloom in the spring and again in autumn!  This iris may have been more appropriately named:  “What??!!  Again???”   This easy-care perennial plays nice with a variety of perennials, such as Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ and  various spring flowering bulbs.

To encourage the autumn bloom, simply cut away the expired blossom in late spring, and then look forward to your second blooming session in Sept/October.

Low maintenance is a bonus; tubers will multiply underground and should be dug out every 3 – 4 years to encourage maximum flowering.

This dwarf iris (Iris pumilaWhat Again’) is drought tolerant and is rated for USDA Zone 3 through Zone 9, which means it will thrive virtually anywhere in the USA except Alaska and Hawaii.   Plant a few tubers of ‘What Again’ in your yard, and look forward to a show next spring, with an encore in autumn!

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


Monday, June 4, 2012

Grow spices - bake cake! Cinnamon Crunch Rhubarb Cake recipe :)


Most herbs are the leaves or fleshy tissue of an edible plant.  Spices, however, are usually derived from the bark or seed pod of a plant, such as cinnamon and nutmeg.  Following is my own recipe I’d like to share which incorporates cinnamon and nutmeg to take a rhubarb cake to a higher level. Enjoy!  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From the Kitchen of Lynn Schmid  
(Horticulturist at Lammscapes)

Cinnamon Crunch Rhubarb Cake -- a delicious treat that uses fresh rhubarb from your garden  (can use frozen rhubarb, if desired)

Topping can be mixed and set aside:
½ cup white granulated sugar, one tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg

Ingredients:
½  cup Crisco® shortening
1  cup light brown sugar
½  cup white granulated sugar
Cream above ingredients with mixer until smooth; then add:

1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour milk (2 TBSP. vinegar + 7 ozs. milk; can substitute buttermilk)
1 tsp. baking soda
Mix until batter is creamy and smooth; then add:

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted, plus one tsp. cinnamon

Gently fold in the final ingredient: 1-1/2 cups THINLY SLICED rhubarb (note: if using frozen, thawed rhubarb, suggest draining excess liquid before adding)

Use cooking spray to prepare 9x13 Pyrex® glass baking dish.  Spread batter evenly; then gently spoon sugar & spice topping over batter.

BAKE 50 MINUTES AT 325º  (the aroma in your kitchen will be lovely!)
Allow to cool for 30 minutes to serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Topping forms crunchy, lightly browned surface.  Yield: 24 servings

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Lily of the Valley" - Regal, yet simple!


"Lily of the Valley"—Regal, yet simple!

Is that Grandma Mary’s perfume I smell… or are lilies of the valley in full bloom?  The fragrance of lilies of the valley is quite distinctive—different from the scent produced by other lilies.  You may love the intense aroma (or not!) but either way, you likely can identify Convallaria majalis  simply by its scent.

The lily of the valley loves shady areas and thrives as a woodland plant.  It is extremely prolific and sends out underground rhizomes forming a thick mesh beneath the soil level, as well as stolons above ground.   When digging lilies in early spring to share with a friend, you may be surprised that these dainty, delicate blossoms are supported by a tenacious network of rhizomes and roots, often 12” deep.  You will need a SHOVEL in order to share—not a hand trowel!

In spring 2011, lily of the valley received special attention in England when Kate Middleton decided her bridal bouquet  would follow an old royal tradition and be comprised primarily of lily of the valley, in lieu of more exotic plants.  Kate’s bouquet was reminiscent of a simple, olden-days country wedding.  Lily of the valley grows well in the United Kingdom (as well as in some parts of the USA), and Kate made her decision to utilize British-grown flowers in her bridal bouquet.   Lily of the valley can be grown easily in the Southeastern Wisconsin region; you need a bit of shade, a bit of space, and a few rhizomes from a friend or nursery.

NOTE:  If you have small children, please remember the lilies’ leaves, flowers and  late-season orange berries are quite toxic, so please plant where they would be inaccessible to curious children.

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture
 (Wikipedia provides this 19th century illustration of Lily of the Valley)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A tribute to Mothers ~ Happy Mother's Day!


Mother’s Day…  a time for reflection

Mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, mothers-in-law and aunts have all played roles in forming WHO we are today… who we’ve become.  Each of these women was a unique individual, possessing talents and skills they may have shared with us.  Although some memories of our loved ones are pleasant, others are not.  But with the passage of time, even memories that were not so pleasant at the moment might bring a smile to our faces today, as we reflect back on them.

There are countless (expensive!) ways to honor your mother on this special day… diamond earrings, fancy handbags; simply page through the numerous ads you’ve received since the beginning of May.  But remember that many moms don’t want diamonds from their children; they simply wish to be remembered and respected on their special day, and this can be accomplished in creative, loving ways that don’t require spending a small fortune:

Ø Invite your mother/grandmother to your home for a brunch that you and your children will prepare.  (Keep food selections simple to ensure success.)

Ø Find a unique basket that will hold a few plants; if gift is for grandma, let each grandchild select a plant to place in basket and add a poufy bow.

Ø If mother or grandmother has passed on, you can plant a flowering shrub or tree in her memory—one that will bloom every year around Mother’s Day.

Ø Bake something special for her… try your hand at baking bread or a lovely pie, featuring her favorite fruits or berries.

If you are a mom, grandma, godmother or auntie and someone takes time from their busy life to call you or drop by to give you a hug in person, just savor the moment and take time to reflect … this is your special day!   You have made a difference in someone’s life!

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


Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Spring is Blooming - Outside & IN !"

Spring is Blooming – enjoy outside & IN!

Spring has come to Wisconsin with all the spring bulbs and flowers blooming a bit early due to our warm March.

Why not bring the Spring indoors?  It is very easy to use just a few small flowers to make a beautiful arrangement. 

Use small jars and bottles from jelly jars to small vases, juice bottles, old medicine bottles and small craft bottles from your local craft store.  The display is more interesting to have a collection of different sizes and shapes and heights for your vases.  Then simply put a few stems and leaves in each one.

In our arrangement, I have used the following:

·        Grape Hyacinths

·        Johnny Jump-ups

·        Daffodils

·        Violets

·        Bleeding Hearts

·        Lily of the Valley

·        Virginia Blue Bells

·        Forget-Me-Nots

So take a walk in your yard and bring Spring into your home.  It’s an easy & fun activity on any day!



LAMMSCAPES!  Floral Designer,

Gretchen

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Tulips for Tomorrow"

Tulips for Tomorrow

Tulips sing the arrival of springtime to gardeners throughout the world.   Tulips offer a kaleidoscope of colors for all to enjoy—some are early bloomers while others are late.  When my late-blooming, red-orange tulips emerge, I know most tulips are finished for this spring.  These three late-blooming beauties have appeared in my garden every spring for several years.  (I snapped this photo today, April 30, and they appear to be at their peak.)

Although tulip blossoms are gorgeous, their foliage is not spectacular; however, it is important that gardeners allow foliage to remain in the garden, even after petals have fallen and you have removed the stems from each bloom. The foliage will continue to photosynthesize for a month or two, producing sugars (carbohydrates) which will transfer to each bulb beneath the surface.  These carbohydrates are stored in the bulbs until next spring when they provide the energy to push new leaves and blooms to be enjoyed again.

 When foliage is dry and brown, the photosynthesis cycle is complete so leaves can be removed and placed in your compost bin.  Allowing tulip leaves to remain in place until dry sets the stage for large, lovely tulips for tomorrow! 

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


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hatched & Happy in the Hoop House :)

According to Wikipedia, the Red Admiral Butterfly  (Vanessa atalanta) usually winters over in Texas.  However, in early April we discovered several Red Admirals flying around in the LAMMSCAPES!  hoop house; I’m quite certain they wintered over right here in Jackson, Wisconsin.

 As we go about our springtime tasks in the hoop house, it is a pleasure to witness these butterflies flitting about, enjoying warm spring days. They appear to be hatched and happy, and eager for more warm, sunny weather (aren’t we all !!)

Although this photo was taken in my home garden during summer, it is the same Red Admiral species that inhabits North America, parts of Asia and Europe.   Red Admiral is one of many butterflies that visit Wisconsin, and gardeners often observe these beauties sunning themselves on the petals of brightly colored blooms in our gardens.  

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


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Don't Give Up on Me!

The song entitled “Don’t Give Up On Me” is a suitable theme song for several perennials, shrubs and trees which thrive in our Southeastern Wisconsin area. While shrubs and trees like forsythia and magnolia herald the arrival of spring with a flush of colorful blooms, many other genus and species remain dormant, exhibiting NO signs of life in early spring. 

Often the crispy, crinkly foliage has persisted through winter, as shown on this photo of smokebush (genus Cotinus) during April.  It is not dead—just dormant.  Late-emerging plants often surprise gardeners when their buds begin to push much later than other plantings.  A few examples of late-emerging plants: 

Blazing Star, Gayfeather  (genus Liatris)  flowering perennial
Butterflybush (genus Buddleia)  marginally hardy perennial in Zones 4,5
Bluestar (genus Amsonia)  flowering perennial
Buttonbush (genus Cephalanthus)  flowering shrub
Bottlebrush Buckeye (genus Aesculus)   flowering shrub
Smokebush (genus Cotinus) flowering shrub
White Fringetree (genus Chionanthus)   small flowering tree (15’ -20’)

Various ornamental grasses (Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Fountain Grass and others) are often latecomers in exhibiting spring growth.  Don’t give up—give them additional time before digging and transporting to your compost pile!

Trees in the genus Quercus are typically late to emerge, so while you are inspecting for signs of new growth on your oak trees, your oaks are whispering, “Don’t give up on me!”

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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Save your plant's tender buds from the cold!

FreezePruf ® reduces risk!
 




Local gardens and gardeners have enjoyed  warm, balmy temperatures throughout  March— a weather pattern virtually nonexistent  during March in years past.   The spring bulbs in bloom, as well as forsythia and magnolias, produce lots of smiles!  Buds are pushing on trees and shrubs all around … spring weather has arrived early in Southeastern Wisconsin!   But then reality sets in… a few days of cold, damp weather, followed by nights with patches of frost .  What can we do to protect the vulnerable new growth on our favorite plantings?

A recently developed product can protect our plants from frost and ice crystals:  FreezePruf®
This amazing liquid can be sprayed on all plant parts until thoroughly wet, including tops and bottoms of existing foliage and flower buds.   Protection should last two to four weeks, depending upon severity of the freeze event. 

The research efforts of botanist, Dr. David Francko ( University of Alabama) who is primarily responsible for this product development, have produced this unique spray for landscapers and gardeners.  He explains the FreezePruf® product enhances each plant’s ability to survive cold, freezing temps.   Ideally, the product should be applied generously  8 – 12 hours prior to an expected freeze event for greatest effectiveness.   

Although this product should not be used on succulents, most  outdoor plants will benefit from a coating of FreezePruf®  (it is both biodegradable  and pet-and-people friendly).    The following link provides lists of plants which have been tested for effectiveness using the FreezePruf® spray for cold protection:  http://pro.liquidfence.com/ecologic/freeze-pruf.html

This product can improve the cold tolerance of plants up to  9º F.   FreezePruf®  is a non-toxic form of “antifreeze” for your plants, and can be reapplied to new growth which emerges after  the initial treatment.  An application of FreezePruf® protects the cell membranes and cell walls of stems and leaves, preventing total destruction , even if temps drop below 32º F.   

NOTE:  FreezePruf® is available as ready-to-use spray or concentrate.   Improving our plants’ cold tolerance during April and May is our best defense against frigid cold temps damaging plant tissue.



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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Icing on Cupcakes ... Icing on Conifers!"

Here's a cool & refreshing tip on our warm "spring-like" day.
Remember weather can always change in Wisconsin!


"Icing on cupcakes… icing on CONIFERS!"

Envision a delectable cupcake topped with a mound of fluffy white icing… a perfect marriage of delicious cake and creamy topping.  But icing on conifers??? Although the scene shown here is rather typical during winter in Southeastern Wisconsin, ice glazing definitely is not beneficial to conifers.

Frequently, springtime provides our area with a plethora of weather conditions—particularly snow and ice storms.  Because March/April temperatures can hover near 32º F.  any precipitation that falls has a high moisture content, often creating a thick ice/snow load on conifer branches.

As a homeowner, you may elect to brush excess snow from branches, but please do so very gently, with special care.  Before beginning the snow removal process, inspect branches to determine if icicles have formed at branch tips as shown here.  If icicles appear, do not be tempted to remove snow and ice from brittle branches!  My tree care teacher instructed this action could cause serious damage to conifers’ branches.  Since new growth occurs at branch tips, removing snow (and underlying ice) can cause damage to terminal buds, which are preparing to break dormancy with the arrival of springtime.  

Solution:  Be patient!  Allow sun to melt those ice-encrusted branches slowly. Conifer branches should be resilient enough to recover from a temporary icing condition and will generate fresh growth as warmer spring days arrive.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March is the Month - Think Green!

March is that transitional month which takes us from winter to spring with its crisp, cool days and resurgence of new life.  Later in March, we can witness tree buds swelling and breaking dormancy, and tiny green leaves emerging … a tree’s life cycle begins again.  March also brings the celebration of St. Patty’s Day, which is rich in traditions, including that popular delicacy:  green beer!    Before partaking in green beer (or your drink of choice) it would be wise to consume a hearty meal like my St. Patty’s Day Soup.  Rich in cruciferous veggies and a broth with a greenish hue, this soup could become a favorite for any winter/spring day. 
From my kitchen to yours… enjoy!   Lynn
St. Patty’s Day Soup
1½ cups green cabbage, chopped
1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup fresh cauliflower, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced thin
½ cup white onion, chopped 
(can substitute scallions if desired)

2 TBSP. fresh parsley, chopped
(can substitute parsley flakes)
Sauté above ingredients in TWO TBSP butter, plus TWO TBSP olive oil.
After a few minutes when veggies are tender, add remaining ingredients:
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
10-oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach
(thaw— then absorb moisture w/paper towels)

1 cup cooked chicken, diced
3/4 cup white rice
(cook until tender in salted water, plus juice of one lime)2 TBSP  dry white wine (please use wine you would drink—not “cooking” wine)
2 TBSP  chicken flavored granules
(or chicken soup base) to intensify flavors
Simmer combined ingredients for ten minutes; serve hot  in mugs with crackers or a crusty bread.     Yield:  four servings
M. Lynn Schmid, Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Monday, February 20, 2012

Houseplants ~ Not just for decoration!


Most decorators would agree, a few dramatic plants can provide pizzazz and punch to an interior design.  Houseplants can also lift our spirits, especially plants that burst into bloom long before spring arrives outdoors.   Bulb plants, such as Amaryllis (genus Hippeastrum), provide a dramatic display and often are planted in December/January to give a splash of color to wintry days that might be cold and bleak.  Some indoor gardeners enjoy planting Paper Whites (genus Narcissus) so they can enjoy a visual display and intense aromas as well.  A favorite of mine is the tropical Hibiscus plant (shown here) which spends fall and winter indoors and graces us with cherry-red blossoms every winter.
Some plants, like Chrysanthemums, help purify our indoor air; however, I understand multiple mum plants are required to accomplish significant purification.   But even the most common houseplants—green foliage plants—photosynthesize each day and create small amounts of oxygen to enhance our indoor air.    Foliage plants, as well as succulents, contribute something special to our interior spaces, especially this time of year, as they bask in additional hours of sunlight.  You may witness new growth on one plant, deeper green leaves on another.
Most houseplants benefit from sunshine, so following are tips to ensure your plants remain healthy throughout fall/winter:
RINSE OR MIST FOLIAGE:  Dust-coated leaves inhibit sunshine from reaching leaf surfaces (my horticulture teachers claimed dust can reduce a leaf’s ability to absorb sunlight by  20%).  Place plants in shower once monthly and rinse foliage gently with lukewarm water.  NOTE:  Some plants do NOT like wet foliage; I do not recommend this practice for geraniums or cactus.
DIRTY WINDOWPANES prevent sunlight from reaching foliage.  If your plants reside in a bay window or windowsill, take advantage of a warm day and wash the window, inside and out. 
FRESH POTTING SOIL: Re-pot most plants once per year to provide fresh organic matter and nutrient-rich, insect-free soil.  With regular watering, nutrients leach from the soil and plants consume available nutrients, so the soil (or soil-less mix) lacks nutrition after a year or so.  It often becomes compacted, so re-potting allows you to loosen and inspect roots before placing into fresh soil.  Late winter/early spring is the ideal time for re-potting houseplants before you become preoccupied with outdoor plantings.   Choose a quality potting soil to give your house- plants the nutrients they need to thrive and survive!
M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cayenne Peppers... heart healthy veggies!

Cayenne Peppers… heart healthy veggies for February, heart health month!
Cayennes are easily grown in S.E. Wisconsin gardens, especially in containers.  If our growing season is long, cayennes will turn red while on the plant, making a striking display in your garden.  In autumn when frost is expected, containers can be moved into your garage or home, near a sunny window to turn red and develop their hot, but mellow flavors.  The active ingredient capsaicin  is concentrated in the flesh and pith of each pepper, and is a multi-functional component of the cayenne.  Capsaicin is alleged to contribute to heart health.  Also, when working with dried cayennes (wear disposal vinyl gloves), we scrape the pith and seeds and save in a glass jar to sprinkle around tender shoots of aster plants in spring (this discourages bunnies from snacking on tender young shoots!) 
 Cayennes have numerous culinary uses—either fresh or dried— and are a flavorful addition to Mexican and Thai cuisine.  From the genus Capsicum, this vegetable when dried is considered a spice.  The photo above shows some cayennes grown in our home garden in 2011; they are fully dried and ready to be ground into pure cayenne pepper.  (I store ground cayennes in glass jars in our freezer to preserve flavor intensity.) HOT SALT can be made easily with one TBSP of ground cayennes plus two TBSP coarse sea salt.  CAYENNE OIL can be made by mixing two TBSP ground cayennes with one cup canola oil.  These condiments will add zip and zest to your recipes!  Cayennes have been an integral part of our garden for years, and we hope you will include them in your veggie garden soon.

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Organic Mulch - Insulation for our Plants, in all seasons!

Although humans may enjoy snuggling under a puffy, down-filled comforter during frigid weather, our shrubs, perennials and bulbs prefer a 3-inch layer of  organic mulch or shredded cedar during cold AND hot weather.  During those hot, dry spells of summer, shredded cedar blankets the root zones of our plantings, helping retain moisture within the root zone and keeping our sun’s rays from drying soil surfaces. 
During winter months, this blanket of shredded cedar/organic mulch is not intended to keep our plants WARM!  Truly, its function is keeping the root zone COLD.   Of course, a thick blanket of snow is also beneficial in maintaining cold temps within the root zone.  However, some winters (like the one we’re experiencing in 2012) don’t provide snow insulation for shrubs, perennials and other plantings.  
If the sun’s rays accumulate on soil surfaces (or heat reflects off brick or siding surfaces of your home), plants will break dormancy too quickly.   Bulbs or perennials which emerge too early in spring are vulnerable to frost/snow/ice damage. 
The daffodils in my home garden which had emerged by FEB 1st are at risk.  The solution:  add organic mulch. 
A  3-inch layer of shredded cedar/organic mulch should be adequate to keep bulbs and roots protected from sunshine and freeze-thaw cycles.  Shredded cedar can be purchased in bulk or in bags, depending upon your preference.   Mulch is inexpensive insurance to keep your plants insulated and protected from a variety of weather conditions.
M. Lynn Schmid -  Certified Master Gardener, A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture