© Kim Willis - no parts of this newsletter may be used without permission.
I finally got to see my moonflower bloom. They are so beautiful and smell so good. Next year I’ll start mine sooner. The woodland nicotiana is also pretty now, and all my dahlias are now blooming. I am still getting tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden but that won’t last long I’m afraid.
I kind of look forward to the time when we have our first frost and the mosquitoes are gone, then warmer weather returns. And I don’t have to worry about watering (outside anyway), anymore, just planting bulbs.
Bringing the houseplants in
I spent most of yesterday bringing in houseplants. It was a monumental undertaking as everything has grown over the summer and I added some plants of course. I brought in over 60 plants and there are still some that are a little more cold hardy that are outside. I still need to pot the lemon cypress – it’s in a huge tub with hardy perennials- and bring in the geraniums, rosemary, and tuberose begonias. They can stay out until a hard frost is predicted. I let the cannas, dahlias, glads, peacock lilies and rain lilies stay out until they go dormant, and then I bring the pots inside.
Arranging the plants so everything has enough light but can still be watered is a real challenge. I am still not finished. All summer I hoard things that might work as plant saucers and I still have to place those trays under a lot of the plants when the arranging is finished. Every room in the house except the bathroom has plants in it. Our bathroom is small and the north window is frosted but eventually I may work out a grow light situation in there. When I am finished I’ll post pictures.
I now have 11 spider plants of various sized pots. They break off and root in the soil outside and I can’t just leave them, I dig them up and pot them. I have two huge jade plants and moving them always breaks off a number of stems. I have some lying on the desk in front of me. I will of course pot these up and try to squeeze them in somewhere. And a few other succulent pieces broke off here and there that will be potted. Yes, I am a plant hoarder.
One exciting find was that I have limes growing on my key lime tree. The plant was outside behind my water feature this summer and it took me a half hour to unwind the mina and morning glory vines that had grown up in it. When they were gone I could see the fruit. I am hoping the little limes don’t fall off from the move inside.
My house does not have enough window space to keep all my plants alive so last year I experimented with grow lights to help keep things growing. This year with even more and bigger plants I expanded my grow light operation. There are so many energy efficient options now. I purchased an LED red-blue light flood lamp bulb and a 1 foot square LED hanging lamp that came with hilarious instructions translated from Chinese. They had tried to black out pictures of marihuana growing under the bulb in the instructions by drawing lines through them.
The LED lights are very cheap to operate and the purchase cost has come way down too but I am not sure I like the light they give off. It’s a purple light and it makes the color of the plants look odd. I suppose that’s ok if you are growing pot but I like to see the color of my hibiscus and mandevilla flowers.
I decided to purchase some CFL “bright sunlight” grow bulbs to add to my grow light situation. I’ll use them in clamp on type reflector lights that I purchased last year. I painted them hunter green on the outside and they blend in well. I used daylight type bulbs last year and I liked that light. Those bulbs are also economical to run but they don’t last as long as the LED’s are supposed to last. When mixed with the LED purple light they make the light look more natural. I also purchased some cheap timers so I won’t have to turn all those lamps on and off. I intend to leave them on about 12 hours a day.
My plants and the supplemental lights are clustered in front of windows. I sure hope I don’t get raided! But Michigan winters are so dark and gloomy and those plants and lights make me feel much happier, without me growing anything I have to smoke!
If anyone has advice on good grow lights and how they worked for you let me know.
If anyone has advice on good grow lights and how they worked for you let me know.
Saving tender perennials for indoor use
You just read that I hate to discard any plants. I love a patio and yard filled with colorful plants and if I can get plants that I can use for more than one year so much the better. There are many plants that gardeners grow in their gardens and outdoor containers as annual plants that are really perennial plants in warmer climates. Some of our most common bedding plants that we treat as annuals fall into this category. If gardeners rescue these plants before a frost they can become attractive houseplants for the winter.
It’s also economical to keep a few tender perennials over the winter so you don’t have to buy them again in the spring. Many of these tender perennials can be multiplied by cuttings to produce a whole new selection to use outdoors next spring or to share with friends. Some tender perennials that are over-wintered become large, attractive plants that would be impossible to obtain with one summers growth.
There is a list of these tender perennials that can winter indoors given below. If these plants are growing in the ground they should be dug up and carefully potted. If they are crammed into a container that is pretty full and lush it would be wise to separate the different plants and pot them separately. Plants that are in containers where true annuals can be removed to give them room, or which have enough room, can be brought inside in the pots they were growing in. Check the plants and the pots carefully so you don’t bring in small surprise guests like frogs and mice.
Use a good, lightweight potting soil if you need to re-pot tender perennials you are bringing inside. Some insects can become a big problem indoors if they hitch a ride inside. It is a good idea to spray plants with an insecticide or use a systemic insecticide on them the day before you bring them inside. If you do it outside you won’t pollute your indoor air and surfaces. And the insecticides won’t impact pollinators inside your home. However if you have pets that munch on leaves indoors you may want to skip the insecticide.
Some of these plants go semi-dormant in winter, even when brought inside. They will begin growing again in the spring however, as the days lengthen. The plants that do go into a resting stage can often be kept in a room that is well lit but has cool temperatures that stay just above freezing, such as a sunny porch. Other tender perennials need room temperatures that don’t go below 55 degrees F. to do well over the winter.
Instead of bringing whole plants inside you can sometimes take cuttings of plants and over winter small plants you start from them. It is better to start these plants outside in late summer, and then bring in the small pots before frost. However, if frost threatens and it seems to be too much work to bring a large plant inside, take a few cuttings and try your luck.
Don’t try to save too many tender perennials unless you have a big greenhouse. (Even I close my eyes and leave some behind.) Just save the most expensive, rarest or your personal favorites. You can propagate cuttings from one or two plants for a new border of impatiens rather than trying to save the whole border. All plants need room and good light and the more you have, the more time you will spend caring for them. Trust me, I know.
Tender perennials that need warm winter conditions
These plants need temperatures that stay above 55 degrees, bright light and moderate watering over winter.
|Polka Dot plant|
Of course any tropical pot plant you bought for the patio can probably be brought inside. Tender fruiting plants like the various citrus family members, papaya, pomegranate, banana plants and figs that aren’t hardy to your area can be wintered inside.
Tender perennials that can go semi-dormant
Bring these into a cool, above freezing place with bright light and water lightly, just enough to keep them from wilting. Trim back straggly ends and yellowed foliage. Geraniums, argyranthemum, diascia, rosemary, perennial reeds, sedges and grasses not hardy to your zone, tender lavenders, salvia Black and Blue and other perennial salvias not hardy to your zone, and tender passionfruit plants.
In general if a perennial plant is hardy in a zone or two higher than yours you can try over wintering it this way. Many of these plants actually require some cooler weather to produce flowers so don’t keep them inside a warm area.
Tender bulbs and tubers
Bring these bulbs or tubers into cool not freezing area, with natural daylight, leave bulbs in pots to die back, after foliage dies cease watering, keep above freezing, and then begin watering again in March, and place in full sun. Colocasia- (elephants ears and taro), Eucomis- (pineapple lilies), caladiums, calla lilies, rain lilies, peacock orchids, and tuberous begonias.
Other tender bulbs like cannas, glads, dahlias, etc. can be dug after a light frost kills the foliage and stored dry, with foliage cut off, in peat moss, sand, wood shavings or vermiculite. They must be dug before a hard freeze.
Planning fall color in the garden
Fall in the garden can be as lovely as spring is, full of flowers, textures and attractive foliage, if the gardener plans for fall color. If your garden seems a little drab this fall it’s time to think about what you can do to make it better next year.
Many areas have a few light frosts, then some milder weather before a big killer freeze. Don’t let your garden color disappear with those first light frosts. Some plants will survive very well until a hard freeze and others can be protected to prolong bloom. And there’s always the option of adding color to the garden again with potted fall blooming plants.
Using cool season annuals
Many annuals and tender perennials such as geraniums, argyranthemum calendula, snapdragons, fibrous rooted begonias and diascia are just getting full and beautiful as cool weather approaches. They will survive light frost, and actually thrive in cooler weather. Ornamental cabbage and kale are excellent choices as cold weather really brings out their color. If pansies that were planted in the spring were cut back in mid-summer they will now respond with a new flush of bloom.
Some summer flowering bulbs like dahlias and cannas are great for fall color. They won’t survive frost unless you cover them, but they make great color splashes for fall gardens. After a hard frost kills them, dig the bulbs and save them for next year.
Using fall blooming perennials
There are many perennials that bloom late in the season and provide that color splash you need. Many sedums are fall blooming. Goldenrod and perennial asters are fall stars in the garden. Garden mums are a traditional fall favorite. Russian Sage blooms late and many of the landscape roses continue to bloom until a hard freeze. Anemones and cyclamen are fall bloomers for light shade. Keep the seed heads cut off buddleia and they will bloom for a long while into fall.
Some perennials that are sold as re-blooming such as German iris and daylilies, struggle to re-bloom through much of zone 5. Those of you in zones 6 and higher have better luck. Your chances are greatest around the city “ heat sink” areas. In some falls, however these re-bloomers will put on a show even in more northerly areas.
Don’t forget ornamental grasses for fall color. Many have beautiful fall flower spikes and by fall they also have impressive clumps of foliage.
Foliage and fruit for color
Yes the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs can brighten the garden in shades of red, orange and gold. If fall color in a tree or shrub is important to you, shop for them in the fall. You can then see if the color is what you want. Dogwood, crabapples, bittersweet, holly, cotoneaster, viburnums, coralberry, and beautyberry are examples of plants with fruits that can provide fall color. Both English Ivy and Virginia Creeper are vines with brilliant red fall color.
Shrubs with good fall color include burning bush, barberry, ninebark, serviceberry, viburnums, ornamental chokecherries, sumac, and smokebush. Blueberries can serve a dual purpose, berries and great fall leaf color.
Some smaller plants also have lovely fall color. Amsonia has pretty blue flowers in spring and turns into a golden flare in the fall garden. While hosta are browning and dying in cool fall weather the many foliage colors of heuchera are still lush and pretty. Wintergreen is a groundcover that turns a pretty burgundy-purple and has bright red berries also.
Using frost protection
The less hardy annuals and tender perennials putting on such a glorious show at the end of the season can continue to bloom if you remember to cover them when frost threatens. These include zinnias, nasturtiums, impatiens, begonias, coleus, petunias and marigolds. Save old thin sheets for this or buy floating row cover at the garden store. Newspaper is also a fair choice, although hard to keep in place. Avoid using plastic as it often causes damage to leaves that it touches. Remember to cover hanging baskets, containers and window boxes too if you want to prolong their bloom.
Plants will need to be covered whenever temperatures are expected to be below 40 º F and the sky is clear, and winds calm. Usually zone 5 and 6 falls have a few nights of this weather then recover a bit for several weeks. If you protected your annuals they will be blooming through the better weather. On rainy nights, even very cool ones the plants are safe. However, if temperatures drop below 32ºF for more than an hour or so even your covers won’t help some of the plants.
If you didn’t plan for fall color and suddenly find you need it, there are always those potted mums and icicle pansies that are available in pots in garden stores. Simply tuck the pots in wherever color is needed. If you want the icicle pansies to return and bloom in early spring it is better to plant them directly into the ground.
Potted mums rarely survive winter even if the label says they are hardy. If you want to try to save them, plant them into the ground as soon as you get them, keep them watered until the ground freezes and don’t remove the dead stems until late spring when new growth has started.
You can also leave mums in their pot, and bring them inside after the first freeze and keep them in a cool but bright spot. When the blooming slows down in the darker days of winter cut them back to 6 inches and water lightly. They will begin growing again when the days lengthen and it warms up. When all danger of frost is passed plant them outside in the ground. Most will then give you another fall show of color and many will return year after year.
Quick and easy apple cake
Do you have lots of fresh apples at your house? Fall is a great time to fire up the oven to do a little baking with those apples. Let the spicy warm scent of apples cooking lift your spirits on those gloomy wet fall days. This cake is easy to make using a prepared cake mix and is a good potluck or tailgate dessert. You can use any kind of apples in this recipe but tart, crisp apples are best.
6 cups of peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of brown sugar, packed
1 spice cake mix
eggs and oil called for in the mix
1 jar of caramel ice cream
Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the brown sugar and apple slices, cover pan and cook on low heat until the apple slices are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir the cooking apples frequently.
Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 cake pan with cooking spray. Instead of spraying a pan it could be lined with non-stick foil for an easy clean up.
When the apples are tender, pour skillet contents in the cake pan and spread them evenly over the bottom of the cake pan.
Prepare the cake mix according to the directions. Pour the mix over the apples in the pan. Bake the cake at 350 degrees until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean- 30-40 minutes.
Let the cake cool about 5 minutes then poke holes evenly across the surface with the handle of a wooden spoon, skewer or similar item. Pour the caramel ice cream topping over the cake evenly, it will be absorbed by the cake.
This cake is great served warm with cool whip or ice cream. It also freezes well.
Baked apples in the crock pot
Here’s another way to use some of your apple harvest. Pop this in your slow cooker-crock pot to make your house smell wonderful and provide you with an easy delicious dessert.
Wash and core apples, enough for a single layer in the slow cooker. Try to leave a bit of core at the very bottom of the apple instead of a hole going all the way through. My slow cooker takes 6-8 apples.
Spray the slow cooker bottom with a no stick pan spray or lightly coat with butter.
In the hole left from removing the apple core place a pat of real butter.
Mix together brown sugar, a tablespoon for each apple and your choice of spices to taste. I use about a ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and a little nutmeg for 6 teaspoons of brown sugar. Some people also add ground cloves.
Place the apples in the slow cooker, with the hole side up. Spoon a tablespoon of the sugar spice mix into each apple on top of the butter.
Bake for about 3 hours on high 4-5 hours on medium heat. The apples should feel soft.
Let apples cool slightly, top with a dab of caramel and a spoonful of whipped cream or serve with ice cream.
This weeks weed- velvet leaf (Abutilon theophrasti)
Velvet leaf is a common weed of crops and gardens in the United States. Other names include pie marker, butter weed, Indian hemp and wild cotton. How common names get given is a mystery since this plant doesn’t resemble cotton and I can’t imagine anyone using it to mark pie.
Velvet leaf is an annual plant. It grows in sunny places and prefers rich fertile soil. The plant begins growing after frost danger has passed and the soil is warm and quickly gets from 2-5 feet in height.
Velvet leaf has heart shaped leaves covered with soft hairs, hence the common name that makes some sense-velvet leaf. The leaves have a finely serrated edge and young leaves may have a reddish tint.
Velvet leaf flowers in late summer. The flowers are small, yellow with 5 petals and stamens fused into a tube. They appear in the axils of the upper leaves. The flowers turn into oddly shaped, ridged, circular seed capsule many people describe as crown–like. Each of the 9-15 segments of the seed capsule has a point on the end. Each segment contains 3-9 gray to brown seeds. Under a magnifying glass one can see the seeds have star shaped hairs all over them. The seeds fall to the ground where they can remain viable for up to 60 years.
Uses of velvet leaf
Velvetleaf seeds can be eaten raw before they are ripe but aren’t very tasty. Ripe mature seeds can be dried and ground into a type of survival flour, many people leach the seeds first to draw out the bitterness then they are roasted before being ground. Seeds can also be pressed to provide oil.
Occasionally one finds mention of velvet leaf as herbal medicine but its unclear if the plant is being mistaken for another plant with the same common name (Senna lindheimeriana).
Velvet leaf stems are steamed and the fibers separated out to make rope, thread and paper. Hikers and survivalists know the leaves of velvet leaf make good toilet paper.
Book Review- Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration
By Tao Orion, Chelsea Green Publishing (June 17, 2015)
Those of you who have read some of my previous newsletters know that I have a different take on invasive plants than many other garden writers. I have done a lot of research on the subject. Another person who has done a lot of research is the author of this book, Tao Orion.
Did you know that one of biggest users of potent pesticides in our environment is the invasive plant movement? Restoration projects across the US pour on the pesticides, often donated to them from big pesticide manufacturers like Monsanto and Bayer, in an effort to eliminate unwanted non-native plants. Sometimes they “nuke” entire ecosystems to start over, with plants they feel belong in a certain environment. Some of the biggest donators to native plant associations and invasive species removal councils are those big chemical companies. Makes you wonder.
Did you know that because of modern DNA research that we are finding that many plants we thought were native really aren’t native? They were brought with the first peoples migrating into the country or spread by trade from later settlements in South and Central America or maybe spread by animals, thousands of years before European settlement. So what is a native species and why is it better?
And did you know that those early civilizations in North America often drastically modified the environments they lived in? Many of us think that before Europeans arrived indigenous peoples lived very lightly on the land, not interfering in ecosystems or changing the environments they lived in. But what many people don’t realize is that before Europeans arrived, bringing their diseases with them, there were large colonies of people, thousands of people in some settlements, spread across North America. These people farmed large areas of land and managed hunting and gathering to their advantage to support these large populations.
First people burned grasslands, removed trees, mined for minerals, planted crops, built villages and roads, and yes, brought in many species of plants through trade between the continents of the new world. Archaeology supports these conclusions.
But when early European explorers began to travel through North and South America, noting the large villages, prosperous farms and abundant game, they brought with them diseases like measles, small pox and the flu, which spread and killed thousands of people. Great cities and croplands were soon abandoned. Populations vastly declined. A 150 or so years later when European settlers began to spread from the Eastern coast line they thought they found untouched land, and native wilderness where once large populations of native peoples had lived and indeed, changed the landscape.
The author believes that what we hold as sacred, untouched wilderness is actually not. She believes that when an environment changes, when non-native plants and animals gain a foothold and seem to overpower native species, there is generally a reason and before we try and restore an area to its “native” state we ought to think carefully about why the changes are happening. What is different about the environment? And do we really know the native state? Pre-European doesn’t mean much.
As the old saying goes nature abhors a vacuum. Nature is not static and is constantly changing. We ought to work with nature and not against it. If it takes extensive “gardening” i.e. removal of species, cutting, burning, and use of harmful chemicals to keep an area “natural” then we are overlooking something and interfering with nature, working against it. As the climate changes we will need to keep this in mind if we want to have vibrant, working ecologies.
Tao Orion teaches permaculture design at Oregon State University and at Aprovecho, a 40-acre nonprofit sustainable-living educational organization. She holds a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture from UC Santa Cruz, and Columbines School of Botanical Studies in Eugene, Oregon. She has worked in the “restorative” field and in permaculture systems. She would like to see us integrate organic agriculture, sustainable land-use planning, ethnobotany, and ecosystem restoration to create beneficial social, economic, and ecological systems.
The book is carefully researched and provides references and statistics. It’s easy to read and will provide the reader with valuable insights and perhaps change their mind a bit about the wisdom of battling invasive species in the way we have been doing. I highly suggest anyone who cares about the planet read this book.
“He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing” ― Cicero
Events, classes and other offerings
Please let me know if there is any event or class that you would like to share with other gardeners. These events are primarily in Michigan but if you are a reader from outside of Michigan and want to post an event I’ll be glad to do it.
Do you have plants or seeds you would like to swap or share? Post them here by emailing me. You can also ask me to post garden related events. Kimwillis151@gmail.com
An interesting Plant Id page you can join on Facebook
Here’s a seed/plant sharing group you can join on Facebook
If you are a gardener in Michigan close to Lapeer we invite you to join the Lapeer Area Horticultural Society. The club meets once a month, 6:30 pm, on the third Monday at various places for a short educational talk, snacks and socializing with fellow gardeners. No educational or volunteer requirements for membership, all are welcome. Membership dues are $20 per year. Come and visit us, sit in on a meeting for free. Contact email@example.com Phone 810-664-8912
For sale Muscovy ducklings, black laced, about 4 months old, you must buy at least 2, unless you have other ducks. $5 each. Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Muscovy are flying ducks, large sized and make good meat ducks. They do not quack- and are very quiet.
Mary Lou Lafond has a huge, 5 feet +, Norfolk Island Pine to give away. You must move it. Norfolk Pines are indoor plants, must be inside before frost. For more info contact her at email@example.com
2016 Native Plant Sale Oct 1 – 2, 2016 10am-4:30 pm, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
The gardens will be selling native plants grown on the site. For more information contact mbgna.umich.edu, or call 734-647-7600.
13th Annual Fall Into Spring 2016 - October 1, 2016, 8 am – 3 pm. Mott Community College Event Center, 1401 E. Court Street, Flint MI
Master Gardener Association Genesee County presents:
- A wonderful way to experience tips and ideas to create a beautiful garden for next year. A fun-filled and inspirational event full of ideas and guidelines to benefit any gardener -- from basic to the most experienced.
**Early Registration is $65.00 by Friday, September 23, 2016.
Registration AFTER Friday, September 23, 2016 will be $70.00**
Registration form is at this link: http://fallintospring.weebly.com/
Janet Macunivich Professional gardener. garden designer, educator, author, columnist for Garden A to Z. Her topic: “Low Maintenance Gardening.”
Jan Burns, Owner, Burns Botanicals, Oxford, MI, will teach us the many ways we can grow anduse garden herbs in “Herbs: How to Grow and Harvest”
Jan Bills, Owner/operator Two Women and a HoeTM. Her topic“Dirty Little Secrets”gives us insight into practical gardening secrets that will make us love, not labor over our gardens.
George Papadelis, Owner, Telly’s Greenhouse in Troy, author & educator. George will give us a sneak peek at the new annuals and perennials for 2017.
The Garden Market: Shop our market of vendors who offer for sale many hand-made or one-of-a-kind items, including garden stones, garden art, herbal products, unique gardening supplies & more! *Note: Some vendors take only cash or checks.
Make checks payable to: MGAGCM
Mail registration to:
Genesee County Master Gardeners
Fall Into Spring Conference
P.O. Box 34
Flushing, MI 48433
Questions? Call or email Loretta (810) 344-7383 firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a facebook page link for gardeners in the Lapeer area. This link has a lot of events listed on it.
Here’s a link to all the nature programs being offered at Seven Ponds Nature center in Dryden, Michigan. http://www.sevenponds.org/
Here’s a link to classes being offered at Campbell’s Greenhouse, 4077 Burnside Road, North Branch.
Here’s a link to classes and events at Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor
Here’s a link to programs being offered at English Gardens, several locations in Michigan.
Here’s a link to classes at Telly’s Greenhouse in Troy and Shelby Twsp. MI, and now combined with Goldner Walsh in Pontiac MI.
Here’s a link to classes and events at Bordines, Rochester Hills, Grand Blanc, Clarkston and Brighton locations
Here’s a link to events at the Leslie Science and Nature Center, 1831 Traver Road Ann Arbor, Michigan | Phone 734-997-1553 |
Here’s a link to events at Hidden Lake Gardens, 6214 Monroe Rd, Tipton, MI
Here’s a link to events and classes at Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids Mi
http://www.meijergardens.org/learn/ (888) 957-1580, (616) 957-1580
If you would like to pass along a notice about an educational event or a volunteer opportunity please send me an email before Tuesday of each week and I will print it. Also if you have a comment or opinion you’d like to share, send it to me or you can comment directly on the blog. Please state that you want to have the item published in my weekly note if you email me. You must give your full name and what you say must be polite and not attack any individual. I am very open to ideas and opinions that don’t match mine but I do reserve the right to publish what I want.
I write this because I love to share with other gardeners some of the things I come across in my research each week. It keeps me engaged with people and horticulture. It’s a hobby, basically. I hope you enjoy it. If you are on my mailing list and at any time you don’t wish to receive these emails just let me know. If you know anyone who would like to receive a notification by email when a new blog is published have them send their email address to me. KimWillis151@gmail.com