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Edition 10.30 Paul Parent Garden Club News July 29, 2010
featured quote

Featured Quote:

"How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!"
~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Thank you to all who came to visit us on the Private Gardens of the Kennebunk's Tour. 1240 people came from all 6 New England states and the tour raised $28,000.00 for the prevention of cruelty to children!

Congratulations to Kathy Caduto of Scituate Rhode Island,who won the Compost Tumbler worth $400.00 while at the garden tour at my house.


Product Spotlight

Wildflower Farm Wildflowers

Wildflower Farm is your source for nursery-grown native North American perennial wildflowers and wildflower seed mixes.

They have an extensive collection of wildflower seeds and a Wildflower Selection Guide that gives you a list of wildflowers native to your state (or province, if you are Canadian) or you can select wildflowers by your soil type.

They also offer Wildflower Seed Mixes that are designed to suit specific site conditions--from dry soils to wetlands, and everything in between.


Celosia: Cockscomb and Feathered Amaranth

One of my favorite annuals is the celosia. I know that when you plant them in your garden, you will feel the same way. My love affair with this plant began many years ago when my family took a summer vacation to Washington, D.C. and Virginia. The celosia was in the gardens at the homes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The tour we took of the property was wonderful and the tour people told us that they were trying to plant flowers and vegetables that were grown at the homes in the Presidents' lifetimes. My mother bought seeds from the gift shop and the following year we had celosia in our garden--just like our former Presidents. I have grown celosia at my home ever since and I will give you a hint why--unusual and unique.

Celosia flowers are feathery and brightly colored, and never need to be deadheaded. The celosia flower comes in shades of bright yellow, orange, pink, salmon, deep red, scarlet and cream. The celosia leaves are a medium green color, oval to lance shaped and 3 to 6 inches long. The new hybrids have red coloration to the foliage and stems--just beautiful in your gardens.

The celosia is broken down in two families: the plumosa group (feathered amaranth), with flowers that resemble thick feathers, and the cristata group (cockscomb), with flowers that resemble the top of a rooster. The cockscomb flower is tightly rounded; its curled blooms resemble a rooster comb--a piece of colorful cauliflower. This variety is the result of a mutant gene.

Plant celosia in full sun for the best flowers but the plant will tolerate a bit of late-in-the-day shade. These plants love hot weather; when you first plant them, they seem to just stand still until the weather gets hot and humid--then watch out! The better the soil, the larger the plant will grow and same for the flowers.

The soil should be well drained and kept evenly moist. Wet soils will kill the plant quickly with root rot. Use compost, animal manure or peat moss to condition the soil before planting seedlings. The plants will grow 8 to 20 inches tall, depending on the variety, and spread to 12 inches. The plant's growth habit is upright, so space plants about 12 inches apart in the garden or 6 inches apart in containers and watch, then fill in.

The Celosia plumosa group has one main flower 3 to 4 inches wide and 6 to 10 inches tall in the center of the plant. Around this main flower, the plant will develop many side shoots with smaller flowers 2 to 4 inches tall and one inch wide. The plant looks like a bouquet of colorful feathered flowers surrounded with nice foliage. The flowers never fade; they just get larger well into the fall.

In the fall cut the plant at the ground and pick off all the leaves. Now, hang the plant upside down in your garage, it will dry beautifully, making a beautiful dry flower for the winter arrangement without drying aids. Best of all the colors will not fade in the drying process. The Celosia cristata group has a main flower 6 to 10 inches tall and shaped like the letter "Y." The top of the flower could be 4 to 6 inches wide but only one inch thick. These other varieties dry very well also--use the same method as with plumosa.

Fertilize celosia with a granular organic fertilizer like Flower-Tone or Dr. Earth Flower Fertilizer with pro biotic when planting. I like a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro a couple times a month during the heat of summer for larger flowers on the plant. I love these plants in planters with other types of plants or all by themselves. Mixed colors are eye catching and the new red foliage types are extraordinary. Enjoy!


Clethra or summersweet

If you think about all the trees and shrubs around your home, how many of them have a fragrance? Most of the plants we grow around our home were selected by us for their flowers and foliage but few for fragrance. I hope that after you read this you will make a change.

The plant I am suggesting you look at is the summersweet or clethra. During July and August your yard will be filled with the sweet floral scent of the summersweet and the fragrance can be noticed 50 feet or more from the plant. The plant itself is not eye-catching until it flowers. For most of the growing season, it almost looks like a wild shrub, which it is in New England, as it is a native plant. So plant this shrub on the edge of your property line, near a deck or patio so you can enjoy the fragrance when you are relaxing.

Summersweet will grow like many of our spreading-type shrubs but is more rounded in appearance. Once established in your yard, the summersweet will make many suckering branches from the base of the plant, helping it to fill in quickly and grow larger. The plant will grow 3 to 8 feet tall and often wider, but you can prune it in the spring to control the overall size of the plant.

The foliage is elongated, oval and comes to a point; it is 2 to 4 inches long, with little teeth on the edge of the leaf. The leaf is dark green and has a sheen to make it look lustrous but not striking. In the fall, you are in for a real treat as those dark green leaves turn to a pale yellow then to golden yellow.

Summersweet is now in bloom all over the Northeast with spike-like flowers that will grow from two to six inches tall and almost one inch wide. The flowers open from the bottom first and move up the spike slowly to give you enjoyment for 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the weather. Each cup-like individual flower is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds.

You will see this plant growing along country roads, near streams or along rivers. Summersweet prefers acid soil, a soil that is moist but it must be well-drained; the plant will grow in full sunshine or up to half a day of shade. This plant is amazing, because it will adapt quickly to where you plant it. Another reason it is a native plant in the Northeast. The summersweet is also heat and drought tolerant.

In the spring you will have to remember that the summersweet is slow to leaf out and many gardeners fear that it has died during the winter, but be patient and the leaves will come. Hold off the pruning until your see the new growth forming, unless you are pruning to control the size of the plant. To control size, prune while the plant is dormant in early April. Once the new growth begins you can remove any dead branches but this plant is very hardy and little pruning is needed. The plant is winter hardy to 20 to 30 below zero and will tolerate and thrive in windy locations.

Fertilize with acid- adoring fertilizer from Dr Earth or Plant-Tone in the spring to help increase the number and size of the flowers. When the flowers fade, a small seedpod will develop where the flower was and, like the foliage, will turn golden-yellow in the fall.

Summersweet is a wonderful plant for a woodland garden, in plant borders with perennials, near a pond, lake or river edge to help hold the ground firm. If you have a steep slope and have erosion problems, this is your plant. Visit your local garden center and look at the new hybrids with pink flower buds called 'Pink Spires' and the new 'Red Spice' with deep rose-colored flowers. I also like 'Hummingbird,' as it is more compact and covered with white flower spikes. Aroma, fragrance and the smell of summer is now possible with the summersweet/clethra shrub. Enjoy!


Rudbeckia/Black-Eyed Susan

This perennial flower is the queen of the summer garden, with its golden-yellow petals and dark brown to black, cone-shaped centers. These perennials come in many flower sizes, heights and foliage texture but are unmistakable in your garden. The Black-eyed Susan can grow almost anywhere as long as the location is sunny. This is a plant native to North America and I am sure you have seen it growing in open fields or even along the side of the road, along with other wildflowers.

In your perennial border, the Black-eyed Susan will bloom profusely for up to 3 months and provide you with an endless supply of cut flowers. If you do not cut all the flowers for the house, the butterflies will have a field day in your garden, along with the bumblebees.

In the late fall and early winter, the seeds in the black cones will attract hungry birds like finches and chickadees. When you see the birds on the black cones, you know it's the best time to remove some of the cones and break them apart to scatter the seed in your garden. In the spring, new seedlings will develop where you scattered the seed heads, giving you free plants for your gardens.

Black-eyed Susans will grow in almost any soil, as they are native to dry fields where the soil is not rich and fertile. They must have a well-drained soil and a sunny location but will tolerate partial shade. In a partial shade garden, you will have to stake plants, as they will stretch for the sun. The plant will produce fewer flowers in partial shade but is still worth the effort.

Cutting flowers for the house will also stimulate the plant to make more flower buds and continue to flower. Removing some of the mature black cones on the plant will do the same and you can crush up those cones for seeds for your garden. Just sprinkle them on the ground, as it is not necessary to cover the seed. You can plant seeds in the spring or fall but fall-planted seeds have a better chance to flower the following summer. You can also divide the plant in the spring to make several new plants.

The foliage is dark green and oval, coming to a point; it has a small hair-like growth on the leaf. This hair-like growth is found on the stems of the plant also. The leaf texture and size will vary from variety to variety. The plants will grow from 24 to 40 inches tall and spread 12 to 24 inches wide, depending on the variety. The plant will spread in your garden as it matures and drops seeds that the birds do not eat, but it will not become invasive.

Insect and disease problems are minimal but if you water the garden at night, powdery mildew can become a problem on the foliage. Powdery mildew can be controlled with a couple of applications of Garden Serenade fungicide at the first sign of development on the plant. Plants do much better in gardens WITHOUT irrigation, so remember wildflower conditions, hot, sunny and dry.

The rudbeckias or Black-eyed Susans are also great for mass plantings, perennial gardens, cut flower gardens, meadow or open field plantings as a wild flower; you can even plant them in large containers like whiskey barrels for summer color. Feed plants in the spring with a granular organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth Flower fertilizer. For bigger plants apply Plant Thrive in May and June to build a stronger root system. In the fall, after the birds have cleaned the cones, cut the plants right to the ground. I consider this perennial one that you must have in your garden.


The bugs of summer have arrived!

After a quiet start to the bug side of the garden, it seems that all of a sudden they have all arrived to my yard and garden. The Japanese beetles have been here for 3 weeks now, but their numbers have escalated after all the rain we had last week. They are feeding on everything--flowering trees, roses, perennials and even a few houseplants that are spending the summer outside. Once the heat of the day fades, after supper is the best time to apply a product like Garden Eight from Bonide Lawn and Garden. Beneficial insects are also back home, and by the next morning the product will have dried on the plant, minimizing problems to them. Liquid concentrates are better than powdered products, less contact to the insect.

Garden Eight can also control the Colorado potato beetles in your garden that are feeding on potatoes, peppers, and even tomatoes. Look for a rounded hard shell beetle with stripes running from head to tail. All beetles eat their weight in foliage every day and lay eggs for help to clean out your plants.

The end of last week the tomato hornworms arrived in my garden. This is the biggest insect we have in our gardens--sometimes growing to 4 inches long and one inch thick, or as big as my index finger. This bug will eat not only the leaves of your tomato plants but will also chew on the tomatoes themselves. They get their name from the one-inch horn on their backsides. As big as they are, you would think they would be easy to find--but these caterpillars have the ability to change color, depending on the color of the foliage of your tomato plants. He is usually near the top of the plant where he has eaten all the foliage from the plant and left you only a stem. You will also find 1/8 inch droppings on the foliage below where a caterpillar fed (if there's any foliage left). I try to pick hornworms off the plant when possible and squash them into the ground with my shoe, returning them to the soil. If you can't stand squishing them, you can drop them in a bucket of soapy water. Two years ago, I picked 132 in one day off 30 plants. When I finished I sprayed the garden with Captain Jack Spinosad organic from Bonide Lawn and Garden. I wanted to make sure they were gone for good!

I have several pots of angel's trumpet about ready to bloom and the other day one of the plants had holes all over the foliage. The night before I saw no holes as I watered them. I could find nothing on the plant until Tuesday, when the culprit-- a grasshopper--showed his face. In the daisy perennial garden near the plants I noticed similar damage and found more of them. Now this is WAR! Out came the Garden Eight to control them and it worked. Don't give grasshoppers a chance or they will destroy your garden quickly.

In my flowering crabapples I noticed two tent caterpillar nests in the early stage of development. Tent caterpillars are a bit early but everything seem to be ahead of schedule this year. Captain Jack Spinosad takes care of them, it is organic and my trees are safe for a while again.

While I had the spinosad out I checked the cold crops like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and my wonderful Brussels sprouts for signs of loppers--and yes they were here. Good old Captain Jack has cleaned them up. There is nothing worse than finding the looper in a salad of fresh vegetables you just picked, eating his share of fresh broccoli.

I also found that my potted bay leaf had a bit of black and sticky powder on some of the leaves. Scale insects have arrived on the plant, so out came the All Season Oil to control them after I washed the plant with a bit of Dawn soap and water. Gardening is fun but can be a full time job at this time of the year. Enjoy!!!


trivia


This Week's Question:

Wheat is grown on every continent except one. Which continent is the exception?

Espoma Organic Potting Mix

This Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix

  • Contains Myco-toneŽ mycorrhizae
  • For all indoor and outdoor containers.
  • In 4, 8, 16 qt., 1 and 2 cu. ft. bags.
Myco-tone


Last Week's Question:

Kudzu, sometimes called "The plant that ate the South," is native to what area of the world?

Last Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix

Last Week's Winner:
Jim Millea

Last Week's Answer:
Asia

One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!


Midwestern Potato Salad

What You'll Need:

  • 2.5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (or other waxy, firm potato)
  • 2.5 lbs. red potatoes
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle
  • 1 can pitted black olives, sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sweet paprika to garnish

Step by Step:

  • In a large pot, boil potatoes in salted water on med-high. Cook about 50 minutes, or until done. Drain.
  • In a separate pot, boil eggs until hard-boiled, about 12 minutes; drain.
  • While potatoes and eggs are cooling, chop dill pickles into 1/4" (thumbnail-sized) chunks; drain black olives and slice into chunks roughly the same as the pickles.
  • Chop cooled potatoes into 1" chunks. Chop cooled and peeled eggs into 1/2" chunks.
  • In a large bowl combine mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper.
  • Add pickles and olives and mix well.
  • Add chopped potatoes and eggs; fold into dressing to coat potatoes evenly.
  • Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with sweet paprika.

Yield: 4 servings

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Paul Parent Garden Club
2 Blueberry Pines Dr
Kennebunk, ME 04043

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