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Edition 10.41 Paul Parent Garden Club News October 14, 2010
featured quote

Featured Quote:

""In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, save perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November." "
~Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905

Product Spotlight

Leaf Mate

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After a long winter, the snowdrops are the first spring flowering bulbs to emerge from your garden, and it's a real treat to watch the flowers develop. Snowdrops appear when the weather is still bleak outside during late winter and into early spring. The grass-like foliage begins to emerge as soon as the snow melts from the cold ground and is quickly followed by beautiful flowers.

The short stem that forms holds a single pendulous, white, mildly-scented six-petal flower that develops in the shape of a lantern or street light. As the temperatures warm up, the flower stem grows taller until it reaches 6 to 8 inches tall--and so does the foliage. The flowers break open, revealing three inner short petals in the center of the flower that are green tipped on the end of each petal. The three outer petals are oval, 3/4 inches long and pure white. The bloom is translucent white and the outer petals resemble the wings of a bumblebee.

From the Greek language, Galanthus means "milk flower," and according to Christian legend, the snowdrop first bloomed to coincide with the Feast of Purification, held on February 2, known as Candlemas Day. To celebrate the arrival of spring, snowdrops must be planted in the fall, and they will do best in full sun or partial shade. The bulb will grow best in a soil that does not dry out during the heat of summer so if your soils are sandy, plant them in partial shade or under tall deciduous trees that have had lower branches removed to allow the sunlight in.

Plant the bulbs in groups of 2 or 3, in a hole 3 to 4 inches deep and wide. If your soil is good, the bulbs will produce seeds that will mature and increase the size of the clump, so add a handful of compost to the hole when you plant. I also add Soil Moist granules to help hold water near the bulb. The bulbs will do great in heavy soil as long as there is no standing water on them and prefer soils that are neutral, so add limestone on the areas you plant for better growth and more flowers.

Snowdrops are small bulbs and inexpensive to purchase when compared to tulips or daffodils. These bulbs are also not eaten by rodents, rabbits or deer and make a great plant to naturalize areas on your property where wildflowers grow. Once established, the area will thicken with flowers quickly. As long as you do not mow the foliage down before it has turned yellow, the plant will spread quickly.

The foliage needs time to ripen and uses the sun's energy to make food for the bulb for next year. If you plant in a grassy area, do not use a broadleaf weed killer or the bulbs will also die off. Plant bulbs in groundcover beds such as English ivy, pachysandra or vinca for wonderful early spring color before these plants make the new foliage in the spring. If you plant on the side of a hill, set them up on the top of the hill and watch the plants spread down the hill each year as the plant produces seed--almost like a stream of water running down the hill.

Fertilize in the spring when the flowers fade and again in the fall with Bulb-Tone or Dr. Earth Bulb Food and never use bone meal as a fertilizer or it will encourage animals to dig in your planting beds. The bulbs are hardy from Maine to Northern Florida, as long as there is a cold spell during the winter season.

You will like these bulbs better than crocus, because of the time of the year they flower, the hardiness of the bulb, and the fact that the bulbs are not eaten by animals; plus they are inexpensive, so you can purchase more bulbs for your money and get more flowers. Plant some snowdrops this fall and in the spring you will know why I love this bulb so much. Enjoy!

Montauk Daisy/ Nipponanthemum nipponicum

As the garden begins to fade with the arrival of the fall season, shorter days and cooler temperatures, one perennial flower is coming into its own season: the Montauk daisy. Some gardeners from the northeast believe since it is named for the town of Montauk on Long Island, New York it originated there, but it originated along the sandy coastal shore of Japan.

This perennial flower does prefer a sandy soil with good drainage and lots of direct sunshine. Unlike most plants, it will thrive in any coastal garden that receives wind, occasional high tide flooding and even wind-driven salt spray from the stormy ocean. This wonderful fall daisy will grow where winter temperatures dip down to -20 to -30 degrees so it is a very hardy plant for your garden. This special daisy is also not bothered by rabbits and deer.

So please consider planting this daisy in your garden this fall as many garden centers grow the plants along with fall mums, flowering cabbage and kale. This special plant will grow large, showy, and easy to grow and requires little to no maintenance. As a bonus, it will attract bees and butterflies well into November. At one time, the Montauk daisy was part of the Chrysanthemum family but was recently renamed to its own origin (Nipponanthemum nipponicum). So call it what you want--chrysanthemum or daisy--it does not matter because this beautiful plant belongs in your garden this fall.

The Montauk daisy is better known on the East Coast than anywhere else in the country. This daisy is a close relative to the Shasta daisy, a wonderful perennial daisy that will flower during the springtime in our gardens. The foliage on both plants is similar, as are the flowers, but they bloom at different times of the year.

The plant grows upright but spreading 2 to 4 feet tall and just as wide. If you allow the plant to grow without pruning, it will become top-heavy and the once thick-growing plant will open up and fall over. The foliage is medium green with rich color and shiny to waxy looking. The leaves grow 2 to 3 inches long, less than an inch wide and cover the plant like a thick growing evergreen shrub.

The flowers buds form during September but do not open until October and last well into November when our other perennial flowers are finished flowering. The flowers form on the tips of the branches on short 1 to 2 inch stems. Each flower will grow 2 to 3 inches wide, with a bright yellow center and one inch long white petals growing around the center. The flowers do not have much of a fragrance but the insects love them, and during this time of the year they do make a great cut flower for the house.

In the fall when plants finally die back and turn brown, cut back the plant to 6 to 12 inches from the ground and cover the plant with pine needles for the winter. In the spring you will notice in early April those stems are now covered with many green buds that will form new branches during the summer. At this time, cut the plant back to 3 to 6 inches tall from the ground and fertilize with Flower-Tone organic fertilizer.

By the first week in July, the plant will have grown to 18 to 24 inches tall and just as wide. If you do not prune it, it will grow to 4 feet tall by October and begin to spread apart, so cut back the plant to 12 inches tall and wide. The plant will now fill in like the shape of a mushroom, growing wider and staying thick and full, growing 18 to 24 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide.

The cuttings you remove in July will root very easily in a pot filled with all-purpose potting soil--or just push the cuttings that you have trimmed to 6 inches long directly into the garden soil that you have conditioned with a bit of animal manure or compost. I also use Soil Moist granules to help retain moisture around cuttings. They should root in just a couple of weeks when placed in a light shade part of the garden--but not full shade.

Once they are rooted, plant them in a bright sunny location in your garden and in the fall you will have a few flowers form on these young cuttings; next year you are in for a real treat. If your plants like your garden soil, they will grow wide and large in just a few years. When the plants mature, you can divide them in the spring by digging them up and splitting them into 2 or 3 pieces to make new plants.

I fertilize regularly during the summer along with my other perennials and check regularly for possible slugs during wet weather--their only problem. If the summer gets hot and dry, water weekly to encourage new growth. Enjoy.

Euonymus Alatus/ Burning Bush

I want to tell you about one of my favorite shrubs, a true American plant that belongs in everyone's garden--despite being put on the invasive list in some states--the burning bush. This fall, as you drive around town, look at state and federal road projects and you will notice that burning bushes are planted around overpasses, on embankments, and along the road side by the hundreds. They are red, they are healthy, and they are beautiful.

Because the state and federal agencies planted too many of them, we gardeners are being punished for their error and not permitted to purchase them in some states (Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, so far). If these agencies had thought before planting so many of them, all of you would be allowed to plant one in your garden today. The plant does produce a beautiful red fruit with an orange-red seed that is eaten by birds and can become a problem when over-planted, as the state and federal road builders did near many highways.

The burning bush comes in many varieties; some compact varieties will grow only 4 to 6 feet tall while others will grow as high as 20 feet tall and are perfect for tall hedges. The foliage is 2 to 3 inches long and one inch wide, oval, finely and sharply serrated with a point on the end. During the spring, summer and early fall, before the cold weather arrives, it is medium green in color and has a bit of shine to it.

If the summer is hot and dry, the foliage will begin to change color ahead of time due to the lack of water. Normally, as the temperature changes, the green fades to almost a florescent pinkish-red and then changes to a brilliant and intense red. During dry summers, the colors change from green to yellow-red. The flowers are greenish-yellow and unnoticeable through the thick green foliage of the plant. When planted in the shade or partial shade, the foliage begins to change color slowly and quickly falls from the plant without the total change to vibrant red.

During the winter, the burning bush has another unique character that makes it stand out among other shrubs: four large corky wings arranged at 90-degree spaces around the stem. The dwarf varieties will have corky wings 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide, but the old-fashioned original types can have wings 3/4 to 1 inch wide. This corky wing is slate gray and grows unevenly on the stem, giving the plant much character.

Most of the plants you might see growing around town are of the dwarf variety, called Euonymus 'alatus compactus,' which have been used for years as property dividers or specimen plants. The old-fashioned or original burning bush, called simply Euonymus alatus, can grow as tall as 15 to 20 feet when trimmed for a privacy hedge. Today many new varieties are available where states did not over-plant them and these new varieties will stay under 2 to 3 feet without pruning.

Burning bush looks best when not pruned. If left alone, the plant looks like weeping branches stacked in layers, creating a soft mound of foliage. Unfortunately, most people prune them to control the size and cut them in shapes like square, oval and round balls--destroying their unique character.

When pruning this plant, do the pruning in the early spring, before the foliage has formed on the plant. Then, you can prune the plant hard, even as much as 1/2 its existing size without hurting it. Afterwards, fertilize it with Plant-Tone fertilizer or Dr. Earth shrub food and watch the new branches form in layers.

Burning bushes will grow in most soils--sandy or part clay--as long as the plant does not sit in water. As with any new plant, add compost and animal manure when planting and water weekly from planting time to the fall season.

Space on 6 foot centers when planting to form a privacy hedge; when used in groups, space 8 feet apart so plants have room to grow without pruning. The state of Maine has not over-planted this shrub and it is still available at local garden centers and nurseries here. Enjoy the fall color!

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, Kilravock Garden, Garnish Island, Annes Grove Garden, Lakemount Gardens, Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, Heywood Gardens, Powerscourt Gardens, Dublin Castle, Dillon Gardens and much more.

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This Week's Question:

What is the only mammal capable of true flight?

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.

Last Week's Question:

Maine has a rather unusual official State Flower. What is it?

Last Week's Winner:
John Cassidy

Last Week's Answer:
Maine's State Flower is the white pine cone and tassel.

Last Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix

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!

Cucumber and Lobster Gratin

What You'll Need:

  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons butter + 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 teaspoons chopped marjoram (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups grated Swiss, Gruyere or other mild cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lobster meat, chopped
  • 1/2 cup buttered bread crumbs

Step by Step:

  • Divide each peeled cucumber into 3" pieces; slice each piece in half lengthwise and remove seeds.
  • Blanch cucumbers for roughly 5 minutes in enough boiling, salted water to cover; remove with slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of iced water to stop cooking.
  • Place chilled cucumber pieces on paper toweling, allowing them to drain for about 3 minutes. Pat dry thoroughly.
  • Make a roux: melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add flour and cook for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Add milk and whisk briskly into roux until smooth; continue to cook over heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
  • Removing sauce from heat, whisk in chicken bouillon and spices until completely combined; add salt and pepper to taste and return to heat.
  • Stirring sauce constantly over low flame, add 1 cup cheese; cook until cheese has completely melted.

  • Arrange a layer of cucumber in a buttered casserole dish, and top with 1/3 of the lobster; ladle about 1/3 of the sauce over the top, sprinkling with 1/3 cup grated cheese.
  • Repeat layering of cucumber, lobster, sauce and cheese.

  • Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a microwave-safe measuring cup and toss with 1/2 cup breadcrumbs; cover prepared casserole with crumbs.
  • Bake the gratin in the center of a preheated oven at 350° F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Recipe from "Cooking for Pleasure" by Jeanine Harsen.


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