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Edition 10.33 Paul Parent Garden Club News August 19, 2010

Featured Quote:

"Gardens are a form of autobiography."

~Sydney Eddison, Horticulture Magazine, August/September 1993


Product Spotlight

AMDRO Ant Block

When black ants invade your home, you can't help but feel violated. It's time to eliminate your unrest with some serious payback by surrounding your home with twenty years of ant killing expertise. AMDRO Ant Block is a pre-emptive strike against invading ant forces.

Ants feed on almost anything that people eat. So while most ant colonies are found outdoors in the soil, worker ants are drawn to your home as they forage for food. Since ants think AMDRO Ant Block is food, they forage the bait and resist the urge to continue into the house.

Apply a light sprinkle of Ant Block around the perimeter of your house. As hungry worker ants approach in search for food, they will quickly seize the bait instead. The bait is then taken back to the colony, fed to other ants, including the queen, and within days the colonies are destroyed.


Gladiolus

Gladiolus is one of a few summers flowering bulbous plants that most everyone can recognize, even non-gardeners. The foliage is sword-like and develops on the side of an upright stem. All the flowers develop on one side of this spike, opposite and just above each other, are irregular in shape but in the form of an open trumpet. This type of a flower is called a tapering flower spike; the gladiolus is also called the "Sword Lily" in Europe.

Gladioulus is one of the most popular summer-flowering bulbs, just because it is so beautiful and easy to grow. And you can save the bulb after the first frost, store it in your basement and replant the following spring. The gladiolus originated in South Africa and was brought to northern-hemisphere gardeners thanks to explorers many years ago, in 1774. The bulb has gone through many changes from the original plant to today's new hybrids. Hybridization has created many new colors, color combinations, flower sizes, plant heights--and even double flower types.

Gladiolus bulbs are classified botanically as CORMS, not true bulbs but that is OK--it is easier for us to find and understand these wonderful plants. They are remarkably easy to grow anywhere in your garden, well-drained soil as long as it receives plenty of sun during the day. Plant bulbs in a garden where the soil has been conditioned before you plant with organic matter like compost and animal manure and watch the flowers grow bigger, the plant taller--and the flowers will last longer in your garden.

They will not do well in a clay type soil that stays wet after a good rain or watering, as bulbs will rot in the ground easily. If your soil is all clay-like and heavy, purchase a whiskey barrel and plant them as a container plant for midsummer color. They do grow tall but do not need to be staked as their stems are very strong and will hold the many flowers without falling over. Wind-swept areas should be avoided, when possible, to prevent damage to stems.

As a cut flower, gladioli will brighten up any room and usually last for well over a week. The flowers open from the bottom of the stem first and slowly move up the stem until most of the flowers have opened. The stem will have as many as eight to ten flowers open at the same time, making a colorful tall arrangement in a vase on your table. As the lower flowers fade, remove them and re-cut the stems to keep the arrangement looking fresh and clean. If the weather is hot, add ice every morning to the vase to help slow down the rate of opening.

Gladioli are in the same family of plants as the iris; look at the leaves of both plants and see the similarities. Gladioli that stay in the garden will flower longer that when cut and put in a vase of water. Plant in the spring when the ground has warmed up and the weather is frost-free. If you plant early and the weather is cold and wet, your bulbs could rot in the ground--so wait!

Plant bulbs three inches deep and space bulbs six inches apart to give them room to grow. I always add Soil Moist to help hold moisture if soil is sandy, and to grow stronger plants, a fertilizer that contains Mycorrhizae, like Bulb-Tone or Dr. Earth Bulb Food with pro-biotic.

In the fall when the frost kills the foliage to the ground, pull up the plant from the ground and you will notice that there are now TWO bulbs together. Remove the foliage from the top of the bulbs and discard the lower bulb. The lower bulb was the original bulb you planted in the spring and it has formed a new bulb during the summer and sent all its energy to it for next year. If you cared for it properly, the top bulb should be larger and stronger.

Store your bulbs in an old pair of panty hose and hang them from the rafters in your basement for the winter. I also add a bit of Rose and Flower Dust to them just to keep winter insects off. Enjoy.


Russian Olive

Do you live where privacy is a problem for your and for your family's outside activities? Traffic, road noise, and even people walking by your house prevents you from spending quality time outside enjoying your yard? You have tried planting shrubs or trees and nothing seems to survive and you're now desperate and considering putting up a stock fence. Before you do, let me tell you about one of my favorite plants, called the Russian olive. Russian olive is so strong it will tease the winter snowplow to apply more salt to try to kill it--and the Russian olive will win the battle every time!

In college, we had to learn the plants' Latin names and this plant's Latin name was like music to me--(el-e-AG-nus an-gus-ti-FO-li-a) Elaeagnus angustifolia--a fun name for me to pronounce. It has several traits that will excite you to plant this large shrub or small tree in your yard.

First, it will grow in any soil--even pure sand on the dunes of beautiful Cape Cod. If your soil is like a sandy fill with no nutrients in it and nothing seems to grow there, this plant will--and it will thrive. Second, cold weather is not a problem, as the Russian olive will tolerate 40 to 50 degrees below zero, making it a great privacy plant even if you live in Presque Isle, Maine or St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Third, when planted in a row and spaced every 6 to 8 feet it will grow into an impenetrable thick hedge filled with silvery gray 2 inch long thorns. Ouch! Just prune the plant each spring to control the size--from eight to twenty feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide.

The Russian olive's main quality is its foliage, silvery-gray underside of the leaf and green-gray upper side of the leaves. The leaves are elongated one to four inches long and half an inch wide with a slight point on the tip. In the early spring very silver in color but with time a bit of green is added to the top of the leaf during the heat of summer, but still very striking to look at. The new branches that form in the spring are also silvery-gray but will turn shiny brown the next year.

Once the leaves form in the spring, the plant will make small half-inch silvery flower buds that will burst open with fragrant soft yellow flowers that resemble a trumpet. In time that flower will be replaced with a soft green-silver fruit about 1/2 inches long, in the shape of an olive. The fruit is sweet and mealy--a real treat for your birds.

Russian olive will make a wonderful privacy hedge even along the side of the road, because it is salt tolerant. If you ever travel to the Bonneville Salt Flats you will see this plant growing at the rest stop there--I did and was amazed! Russian olive is wonderful to help hold back steep gravely slopes, planted all by itself in front of evergreens to bring out its wonderful silvery-gray color.

If you select a young plant and prune it to a single stem the shrub can be transformed into a single-stem small tree growing to 20 feet tall and just as wide. You determine the shape, height and width of the plant when you prune it. Get the plant off to a good start by making a big hole, filling it with a sandy loam. Once it has established the roots, it will care for itself, as it is able to fix atmosphere nitrogen from the air and make its own fertilizer.

Fertilize the first two or three years with Plant-Tone in the spring to help it get started and water like any new plant for the first year--a couple of times a week. CAUTION: do not plant its cousin the 'AUTUMN OLIVE,' as it is invasive and can become a problem, spreading all over your property!


Helenium/Helen's Flower

My favorite tall-growing perennial daisy flower that blooms during the summer and well into the fall is the Helenium family. These plants are beautiful and treasured by gardeners for the daisy-like flowers they produce all summer long in such large numbers on the plant. The Helenium family is named after Helen of Troy, for her beauty. Helen of Troy never saw these plants, as they are native to North and Central America, but she would have loved them if she had seen them.

This family of plants has flowers with many colors from rich mahogany, burnt-orange, orange-yellow, gold, yellow and red. The flower head is a ring of long and narrow petals around a raised button-like cone covered with colorful flower florets. The flower stays small--about one to two inches across--but the number of flowers each plant produces is what the plant is known for. As the flower fades, the cone will fill with small seeds that will attract small finches and chickadees to your garden. The first flowers open during June and last well into the fall season. Because this family of plants has so many members, you will find early, mid-season and late flowering types--but all bloom into the fall.

Plant seedlings in the spring with animal manure and compost, as plants will respond to the extra care you give them. Because the plant grows so large, I like to add Soil Moist water retention granules when planting. This will help retain water around the plant when the weather gets dry. The better the soil, the larger the plants will grow and the more flowers the plant will make. The garden soil should be well drained and free of clay.

During the summer, keep the plants well watered--especially if the weather gets hot and dry--or plants will grow smaller. Plants will tolerate a moist to wet soil, as long as they do not sit in standing water for long times.

In the spring, add a bit of compost as a mulch cover around the plant for a bit of extra energy and help keep the roots cool. Fertilize the plants in the spring with a fertilizer that contains mycorrhizae microbes in it, as this will help generate a strong root system and increase the number of flower buds. Be sure to work it into the soil well around the plants; do not just sprinkle it on top of the soil or the microbes will not work as well.

The foliage is dark green, oval with a point on the tip of the leaf and has small teeth around the edge of the leaf like a saw. Some varieties will have hairy leaves also. The stems are strong and some of the varieties have a unique characteristic that resembles a wing growing on the stem--very similar to the burning bush shrub.

In the spring, when the plant reaches 15 to 24 inches tall, cut back the plant by about 3 to 4 inches and the plant will double the amount of branches it will make --that means double the flowers. The helenium plants will grow 3 to 5 feet tall before they begin to develop flower buds and spread 2 to 3 feet wide, so give them room to grow in your garden. In a windy area, you may have to stake the plants if not protected from strong winds.

In some parts of the U.S., the plant is also called sneezeweed--but it will not make you sneeze. Unfortunately for the plant, it is in bloom when most allergy plants, like ragweed, are in bloom. If you have delicate skin, this plant may cause an allergic skin reaction on some people. Like many other plants in your garden, it is poisonous if eaten, so keep it out of your salad. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators love the flowers and are constantly in your garden, so it might be a good perennial flower to plant near a vegetable garden to help draw the bees to it.


Ireland Tour

Join Paul Parent for a garden tour of the Emerald Isle!

Tour includes the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara National Park, Brigit's Garden, Muckross Gardens, Bantry House & Gardens, Kilravok Garden, Garnish Island, Annes Grove Garden, Lakemount Gardens, Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, Heywood Gardens, Powerscourt Gardens, Dublin Castle, Dillion Gardens and much more.

Click here for details.


trivia


This Week's Question:

What is the largest individual flower on earth--and why might you not want it in your garden?

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:

What is the only bird that can fly backwards?

Last Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix

Last Week's Winner:
Jeanette Dominguez

Last Week's Answer:
The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards.

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!


Spinach, Peach and Prosciutto Salad

Salads are an easy summertime meal, but after a while they can seem boring. Try this Peach and Prosciutto salad--it has a wonderful balance of tartness and saltiness with a satisfying taste, perfect for a light lunch by itself or a quick dinner served with hearty, fresh-baked bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 large peaches (2 pounds) pitted, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • 6 slice (1/4 pound) thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 bunch spinach (8-10 ounces) washed, with tough stems discarded
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Step by Step:

  • On a baking sheet, toast slivered almonds at 325 F for 3 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove from pan and cool completely on a dinner plate.
  • Grate about 1 teaspoon lemon peel into a small bowl (carefully avoiding the white pith).
  • In a medium size bowl, pit, peel and slice peaches.
  • Slice lemon in half and squeeze 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice over peaches.
  • Add olive oil, honey, ginger, salt and pepper to peaches in the mixing bowl; add 1/2 teaspoon of the freshly grated lemon peel.
  • Gently fold peaches and spices together until well combined. Let stand 10 minutes to blend flavors.
  • Arrange spinach on plates, topping with prosciutto and peach mixture.
  • Sprinkle with the rest of the lemon peel, crumbled blue cheese and toasted slivered almonds.

Yield: 4 servings.

Recipe courtesy of "Cooking for Pleasure" by Jeanine Harsen.

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