Friday, May 17, 2019

True Blue: Siberian Bugloss

True Blue” is an old expression often used to describe a lasting friendship or relationship.  Merriam Webster website tells us “true blue” can be an adjective describing someone who is extremely loyal, devoted or dedicated to a person or a cause.  
There is additional information on the significance of flowers in the color BLUE… these blooms may signify qualities like trust, long term commitment, desire and love.  How lovely that the tiny blooms on the perennial Siberian Bugloss are “true blue” (AND beautiful!)

Early May in Wisconsin offers gardeners pockets of color in the garden; colorful spring daffodils and tulips remind us that winter weather MIGHT actually be finished for the moment.  But in early MAY most perennial plants are pushing new growth and foliage—not flowers.  

One exception: Siberian Bugloss, which flowers perfectly in a partial sun environment.  The individual flowers are teeny, but a vivid shade of BLUE!  Away from direct sunlight, the dainty blooms may appear to be a fluorescent BLUE. 

Siberian Bugloss is a terrific companion planting—shown here paired with Solomon’s Seal in our backyard.  In our front garden Siberian Bugloss complements Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket.’  (This compact shrub is rated as hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 9, and pushes coral colored foliage in spring; later this foliage shades to green, and in autumn—a deep burgundy.)

Although the BLUE flowers of Siberian Bugloss are tiny, they last a few weeks. Even after blooms fade, no deadheading is needed.  This plant has grown well in our home garden several years, and its lime green foliage remains until frost. 
Brunnera macrophylla is described as a clump-forming, shade-loving woodland garden herbaceous perennial, but it thrives in a part-sun environment as well.  
Apparently, it is distasteful to rabbits and insects since I have never observed plant damage from any pests.  It thrives in well drained, rich, organic soil. 
Rated as a USDA Zone 3 – 8 plant, it can tolerate a wide range of temperatures.

Purchase a plant or two of Siberian Bugloss soon, and next spring, you’ll be enjoying those dainty “true blue” blooms!

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

Sunday, May 5, 2019



As we move into MAY and winter weather releases its grip on Southeastern Wisconsin, plant lovers here are eager to work their fingers through the soil on a soft, sunny day. They are anxious to plant a few cool-weather veggie seeds (like radishes and peas) to officially commence our 2019 growing season.  

Veteran gardeners are so ready to begin the plant-nurture-harvest season once again… but what about those who are novice gardeners?  

Those individuals might appreciate a few guidelines from an experienced gardener—suggestions that will help ensure success as these new gardeners accept the challenge of growing edibles and ornamentals this season.  

Here are some thoughts to encourage a new or novice gardener:

Think SMALL … when you select a new garden space.  Soil prep, weed and turf removal for a large area can be overwhelming for a new gardener. 

Think GARDEN ART… a few well placed pieces will enhance; too many pieces may appear tacky (less is more; you’ve heard this before!)

Think SEEDS… not every plant needs to be purchased in a plastic pot. You can purchase seed packets, or participate in a seed exchange with friends. (Some libraries also offer participation in seed exchanges—check your library.)

Think SWAPPING… early spring is usually ideal for dividing perennials, especially plants in the Hosta genus.  You give a portion of your perennial to a friend, and they provide you with something from their plant collection.

Think LOCAL… perennials grown in or near Wisconsin are more likely to transplant successfully and should thrive in our soils and climate.

Think BUTTERFLIES… these beauties will visit your yard more often if you “invite” them with tempting, colorful blooms.  (Butterflies have distinct preferences, whether they are feeding on nectar or laying eggs.  Look up a few butterflies on line and plant some of their favorite flowers to increase chances of butterfly sightings in your own garden.)

Think BLOOM TIMES… select annuals and perennials that bloom at various times, keeping your garden vibrant and attractive, spring through fall.

Think RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE… sun lover or shade lover?  rich, organic soil? gravely, well-drained soil? Choose wisely to keep plants happy.

Think SUCCESS… enjoy learning new skills, have confidence in your abilities!

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Wicked Wisconsin Winter!

January closes with weather extremes southern Wisconsinites have not experienced in decades.  Intensely harsh winds accentuated extreme sub-zero temps as people (and plants) struggle to survive.  

As we tackled huge snow drifts with shovels and snow throwers, we likely weren’t thinking of our plants’ root systems beneath the snow.  Often plant survival depends on a thick layer of “insulating” snow cover to reduce effects of wind damage and piercing sub-zero temperatures.  
Also, a healthy plant (not a weak, stressed plant) stands a better chance of survival through winter—just like healthy humans!

When spring arrives in Wisconsin (eventually gentler, warmer spring days WILL come…) our trees, shrubs and perennials will reveal any damage sustained over winter.  Often the deep cold is NOT the problem; some trees and plants can survive even if their entire root system becomes frozen.  

More problematic are numerous freeze-thaw cycles that springtime brings.  
These alternating patterns of freezing temps, followed by warmer temps, followed by more freezing temps… send mixed messages to our perennial plants.  As they emerge from dormancy with blissful sunshine and warmer temps, they are vulnerable.  Dropping below freezing again can shock these plants, or kill them.  

Some prevention methods are effective, but must be done in autumn before bitter cold days arrive.  Lightly wrapping large plants in plain burlap fabric can protect against sunscald and windburn.  The 3 - 4” layer of shredded hardwood you had placed around plants (to reduce moisture loss and deter weed seeds from germinating) also helps insulate plants’ root systems against freeze-thaw cycles.

Rodent damage
Voles (genus: Myodes) are often active in winter beneath the snow.  Voles are rodents related to mice, but not the same; easy to identify with a flatter face than mice, as well as a shorter tail and smaller ears. There are more than 150 species of voles throughout the world. Voles are destructive with tiny “needle teeth” and can easily girdle a tree trunk or shrub beneath the snow.  Voles also eat succulent roots and roots of ground cover. (I snapped this picture  last summer when a vole accidentally found its way into a mouse trap.) 
Voles are often eaten by a variety of owls, so do NOT place poison to reduce their numbers.

As we enter February, each day is one day CLOSER to spring!  Keep warm!

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