Sunday, May 1, 2022

Let’s GO and Let’s GROW!

May, the month gardeners eagerly anticipate…
  May is filled with hopefulness for a long growing season and gardening success!  Gardeners often have devised a Personal Planting Plan for each section of their landscape, siting sun lovers in areas that will receive more than six hours of sunshine per day, while shade lovers will thrive in areas where shadows prevail.

Garden centers and nurseries should be well stocked with your favorites as well as newer cultivars and specialty plants, so let’s GO!   The transition month of May in Wisconsin usually provides enough sunny, warm days so we can enjoy the process of outdoor shopping, selecting the perfect specimens for those garden spaces and containers. 

Garden design can be done well by both professionals and novice gardeners.   Following basic principles of “the right plant in the right place” will ensure success.  Considering how tall and wide each plant will grow in a single season is key to correct placement in a garden space. Garden design isn’t based only on overall appearance; functionality of a plant in its space is also crucial.  (If you purchase a lovely flowering shrub but it completely hangs over the walkway, it will become annoying quickly when you are tripping over the branches— result: you may not appreciate its true beauty!)  If you place the shrub far enough from the walkway, you might add an attractive groundcover along the edge; groundcovers are available for both sun and shade.

May is also about acclimation… plants that were wintered over indoors must adjust gradually to their new outdoor spaces.   Some gardeners may use a greenhouse or garage for this purpose; it is an important step to allow plants to become accustomed to cool nights and sunny days.  Just as humans can easily become sunburned on sunny early spring days, those plants need to acclimate gradually as well.  A few years ago my husband and I (mostly my husband!) built a sun room in one section of our garage; we included three south-facing windows to set potted plants in MAY and OCTOBER.  This works well for those transition months and the plants adjust nicely.

If you are ready to watch plants GROW, then let’s GO… to your favorite plant provider!             

TIP: My Design Instructor suggested making a list of plants you intend to purchase, along with appropriate quantities.  Sometimes when you visit your favorite greenhouse/garden center, the choices can be overwhelming so a list will help you focus on your Personal Planting Plan. (The list should serve as a guideline only—you are encouraged to purchase a few impulsive specimens for extra pop in your space!)  Let’s GROW!

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

Thursday, March 31, 2022

425 (for twenty-five minutes)


This month brought us the “official” start of Spring, but in Southeastern Wisconsin, many of us are still AWAITING arrival of spring weather.  Although there were a few “teaser” days hovering around 60 degrees this month, the final day of March brought us fresh snow and more frigid temps… a slight reality check for those of us eager to see our daffodils in full bloom.  One article I read recently spoke of a “backwards Spring,” which appears to be an accurate description of recent weather conditions.  Of course, psychologically gardeners everywhere anxiously await those first spring blooms to appear… we likely will have to wait a bit longer for enough warmth to encourage a blast of color from all our bulbs!

Gardeners have been planning for our flower and veg gardens for 2022.  Although we won’t be harvesting our own fresh veggies for some time, most produce departments have numerous varieties of veggies and fruits throughout winter/spring.  Recently I tried oven-roasted veggies for the first time— so amazing AND so easy! This side dish is perfect for springtime days that are colder than we might wish!

Only a few items needed:  an assortment of raw veggies, cut to one-inch thickness, plus olive oil and sea salt. You will need a broiler pan or metal cookie sheet with a one-inch lip (to keep oil from dripping onto oven floor) and an oven preheated to 425 degrees.

For optimal carmelization of veggie surfaces, I prefer to skip parchment paper or silicone mats for this recipe.  A few examples of veggies that will roast successfully:  carrots, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage cut one-inch thick, parsnips or any root veggies.   Drizzle or brush olive oil onto top and bottom surfaces of all cut veggies and place pan into hot oven; sprinkle sea salt last. Twenty-five minutes later, veggies are ready to serve!  

Since this method of preparing vegetables uses dry heat only, you might be preserving some nutrients—you definitely will be preserving and enhancing the flavors and textures!  

(These veggies are ideal for those following a plant-forward or vegetarian meal plan, but can be a great side dish for meat entrees also.) 


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

Monday, February 21, 2022

Whole Foods for the Whole Body

Writing about edible plants and culinary herbs has been a source of pleasure for me since FEB 2012.
  My very first blog entry included a photo of dried cayenne peppers from our home garden along with an article about culinary uses and health benefits of cayenne peppers, which contain capsaicin.  Ten years of blogging about flowers, butterflies and beetles, and lots of edible plants has been a challenge and a joy!  A variety of topics (along with my personal photos with each entry) kept this horticulturist occupied for a full decade.  

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on whole foods (a term which is often subject to interpretation…it is NOT the same as vegan.)

A whole food menu is often plant-based or plant-forward; however, meat, fish and eggs are also part of a whole food menu.  Whole foods have been minimally processed, or not processed at all.   

Some people may migrate to the frozen food section when in a rush to buy a meat or fish entrée, already prepared and swimming in a high sodium/high fat bath.  If you could purchase that frozen fish unseasoned and unprocessed (simply fish + water for freezing), it would be considered a whole food; if it is already battered and deep fried so you can reheat in your home oven, it no longer qualifies as a whole food.

Garden produce you grow at home is an example of whole food.  (I’ve included a few photos of garden produce—whole foods—from our 2021 veggie garden.)  The foods you grow may also be considered “organic” or not— depending on the methods, soil, fertilizers and insect deterrents you might utilize.  

If you choose to grow veggies, fruits, berries, legumes, beans, seeds or nuts, these are all examples of whole foods.  If you’re striving for a plant-forward menu, about 50% of your plate should include these items.  You may add spices or herbs as you wish, but you are beginning the process with a whole food.

Springtime crops (coming soon!) like spinach, lettuce, chard, radishes and green onions can be included in soups or salads. If you make a soup or salad using whole foods, you are incorporating  nutrients from each individual ingredient you choose.  I’m quite certain when you’re making a pot of soup for you and your family, you don’t add the plethora of preservatives you would find in a commercially processed can of soup.  

Keep food simple, keep it whole!

Finally, when making selections at your grocery store, consider purchasing extra virgin olive oil which is PRESSED rather than PROCESSED.  It is as close to its natural state as possible and is incredibly versatile for sautéeing and making marinades for all of your whole food selections.  Make choices that are WHOLE FOODS when possible… your WHOLE BODY will thank you for it! 

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

Indoor - Outdoor Plants


Today many products are marketed as “indoor-outdoor.”  Indoor-outdoor carpeting, slippers, thermometers, plant stands… the list is long.  Why not add a few plants to this category? 

Numerous houseplants will thrive outdoors in summer months; be careful if you notice them getting damaged by insects (not all houseplants are candidates for outdoor living in summertime in Wisconsin.)  Of course, your houseplants must go through acclimation (a gradual adjustment from indoor living to outdoor living.)  I consider JUNE 1 – SEPT 1  a sensible timeline for moving plants outdoors for their summer vacay.  All your houseplants should be placed in a shady location initially; then they can graduate to a part-sun location if appropriate. 

NOTE: Even if your houseplants thrived in a sunny window while living indoors, a southern or western sun exposure outdoors might be TOO INTENSE.  Consider their foliage is not accustomed to HARSH RAIN, WIND nor DIRECT/FULL SUN; some protection for your houseplants is appropriate. Monitor your plants often to be sure each specimen is in a happy place outdoors.

My favorite plant that thrives outdoors each summer JUNE 1 – SEPT 1  is a 10-year-old tropical hibiscus.  It handles dappled shade and produces multiple flowers every summer.  This plant hates cool nights, so I always bring it back indoors before nights drop below 50 degrees. Even though September DAYS are warm enough to support a tropical hibiscus, if it gets cold at night, it will likely defoliate completely and won’t be a pleasant sight during winter!  Bring it in by SEPT 1st, and you should enjoy deep green foliage throughout fall/winter/spring.

Outdoor plants often will thrive INDOORS, given the correct environment.  By mid-September, my annual geraniums (genus Pelargonium) have been transplanted to pots and placed under a grow-light assembly.  Although some horticulturists recommend pinching off blooms during off season, I disagree.  Let them flower and flourish all winter long; then transplant to outdoor containers next June.  

(Don’t soak roots; geraniums prefer dryer soil so water just twice/month.)

Additional outdoor plants that can thrive indoors are herbs like rosemary and oregano in pots. My variegated ivy plant (Hedera helix ‘Mint Kolibri’) thrives indoors and out (in a shady location.)  A favorite rosette-shaped succulent is in the genus Echeveria; it handles a sunny window indoors, but outdoors this plant thrives in partial sun only.

Even an unlikely specimen can thrive indoors and out: Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’ is an ornamental grassy plant that is actually a sedge.  The specimen shown in photo has been “wintered over” for three years. By late May, I can take it back outdoors for another summer vacation!  It has tripled in size so I might have to divide this perennial before replanting.  (This plant is a perennial if you reside in USDA zone 6 – 9, but sadly, it won’t survive our WI winters!)

When you’re searching for “just the right plants” for your 2022 garden, consider those varieties which might be able to join you indoors during fall and winter.  It is such a pleasure to witness a few plants blooming and thriving in your home on a blustery, snowy day!

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

Friday, July 9, 2021

Clematis & Climbers!

Grace your special garden with a climbing, flowering vine (hugging a trellis) and you will be blessed with blooms AND blooms AND more blooms!   Whether you choose a sweet pea vine or a clematis cultivar, vining plants require a fairly small footprint.  With vertical gardening on the rise, clematis and climbers need consideration to determine if they will work in your garden environment.  My favorite climber is Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ shown here in living color!

Despite our recent droughty conditions in Southern Wisconsin during May and June, this clematis planted in 2009 survived and thrived with little care.  Some watering was required, but not every day.  Although it needs full sun conditions (six hours or more daily), the root zone area needs protection and some shade.  I used shredded hardwood mulch to cover the entire root zone, and also planted two specimens directly south of the plant to create a “shade pocket” to keep roots happy and cool throughout summer months.  (One is a peony and the other is a broadleaf evergreen, ‘Emerald Gaiety.’ This combination provided sufficient shade to keep ‘Etoile Violette’ cool and comfortable in spring/summer.)

Take care when choosing a place to site any clematis, since this vine can live fifty years or more; provide loose, organic soil and fertilize once per year.  Wind desiccation can be detrimental to thin clematis vines, so wrapping entire vine loosely in burlap can help during winter months.  (Some years, I pruned all the way to the ground— that is another option.) If older vines are left intact on the trellis, the new growth vines seem to climb over them and latch on.  As foliage fills in, the older, brown vines are no longer visible. Although I reside in a USDA Zone 5 area, apparently this clematis is hardy to Zone 3 and 4 as well.

BONUS: This spring, a mating pair of house wren chose our clematis to build their nest. We could hear chicks chirping often; dense foliage provided protection for the young. When this vine sheds its leaves in fall, we should be able to see a tiny nest clinging to vines; nest isn’t visible just yet— too many blooms obstructing view!

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

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mother's Day is on the Way ~


Mommies & Grandmas & Aunts… oh my!

    Transitioning from April to May is a welcome event in Southeastern Wisconsin.   This April provided a sufficient amount of warmth and sunshine to encourage spring bloomers to emerge and thrive.  We received light snow for one day in April, but no serious storms to disrupt our enjoyment of those vibrant springtime blooms.  

    Daffodils—both yellow and white—just shook off the snowflakes and continued to adorn our landscape! 

    Tulips have also joined the party, looking beautiful and bright as long as rabbits are kept away

    (In previous blogs I mentioned using a cylinder of hardware cloth to surround clumps of tulips; this deters rabbits without injuring them. I leave hardware cloth in place until blooms have expired. Then I cut back stems only, leaving the leaves to “recharge” bulb for next spring’s bloom.)  

    The transition from April to May also brings us to the celebration of Mothers’ Day. Mommies, Grandmas and Aunts are honored on second Sunday in May every year in this country.  (Other countries may choose a different day to honor Mothers, but the theme remains the same.)  

    As Mothers’ Day approaches, consider honoring your Mothers, Grandmas, or Aunts in a traditional or non-traditional way:  Bake her favorite cookies or cupcakes. Purchase a gift and wrap it creatively.  Place a few small potted plants in a basket filled with sheets of colored tissue paper.  Give a gift certificate offering to cut her lawn or weed her garden.  Ask your children to make homemade cards or drawings to accompany the gift. You can even gift her with a gift card from her favorite garden center or florist.  If you cannot visit in person, a FaceTime® visit is perfectly acceptable.  

    Whatever you choose will be much appreciated by that special lady in your life!

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

    Thursday, March 25, 2021

    Sweet Bunnies, Bold Bunnies!

    During March it seems grocery store shelves are well stocked with edible, sweet bunnies… white chocolate, milk chocolate, foil wrapped.  

    Gift shops also are well stocked with an assortment of delightful bunnies… furry, soft, cuddly… bunnies seem to be everywhere. 

    All of these adorable, desirable bunnies bring smiles to the faces of children and adults.

    The bunnies that are NOT so adorable are those that frequent our gardens during every season, particularly winter and spring.  Even when shrubs are deep in snow, cottontail rabbits roam the landscape and boldly chew any exposed branches.  This chewing results in straggly, uneven branches when the snow melts exposing an unsightly shrub or plant.

    This spring a bold bunny attacked my Japanese Barberry shrub, covered with tiny thorns; this bunny consumed several inches of top growth from each branch.  This barberry carries the botanical name Berberis thunbergia ‘Orange Rocket’ and it is a specimen plant next to our front entrance.  

    Its dramatic coral colored foliage in spring looks striking against the terra cotta shades of our brick, and in past years, it was quite attractive. (‘Orange Rocket’ turns from coral to shades of green in summer with burgundy foliage in fall.) This winter several 24” stems were chewed down to barely 6” which I will manually prune to encourage new growth.  This plant normally has a vertical growth format, but with all the auxin hormone gone from each stem tip, it might grow in an erratic shape this season.  

    (Although this bush has been planted in same location since 2015, this past winter was first evidence that a bunny could consume its thorn-covered branches.)

        Another shrub called Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ had a     similar fate from bold bunnies.  Footprints in the snow        leading up to this shrub were unmistakably bunny               prints. 

        This plant is a broadleaf evergreen; a bold bunny feasted     on branches and left most foliage fall to the ground.  

        In the genus Sylvilagus, the cottontail has a ravenous        appetite for several species of shrubs and plants. 

    Cottontails also love to gnaw tender foliage of newly emerged tulips; these can be protected by placing a cylinder of 18” tall hardware cloth around each clump of tulips.  Even when tulips are in bloom, they can be admired through the hardware cloth. 
    Since I don’t wish to place chemicals around tulips to deter rabbits, this cultural practice works well.  

    Although we need to coexist with creatures in the natural world, gardeners also need to protect plantings that will beautify the world around us.

    M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener

    A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture