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Edition 10.46 Paul Parent Garden Club News November 18, 2010
featured quote

Featured Quote:

"No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden."
Hugh Johnson

Paul Makes Wreaths

Wreaths are back for the holidays--and better than ever.
All wreaths are made in Maine to your order, to insure freshness. Wreaths are double-faced with fresh picked balsam fir, and are not machine-made.

Click here to order online.

Product Spotlight


Osmocote® invented slow-release plant food more than four decades ago. Ever since, it's helped passionate gardeners to achieve the gardens of their dreams. With Osmocote, plants get the nutrition they need and when they need it.

Osmocote® Plant Food makes it easy to keep the garden growing all season long. Bring vibrant color to a flower bed. Grow mouthwatering veggies at home. Nurture plants to be strong and hardy.

For more information about Osmocote® products, please visit their site.

Caring for your Gardenias  aka Cape Jasmine

This fall and winter, let's add an old-fashioned southern flowering plant to our collection of indoor houseplants. This tropical plant is a shrub in the southern part of the country and real easy to grow as a foundation plant around most southern homes.

The southern gardener uses this plant much like we do azaleas and rhododendrons in the northern part of the country and its beautiful foliage is as important as the flower buds the plant makes in late summer for fall and winter flowers.

Gardenias (also known as Cape jasmine) have glossy, dark green leaves that are almost leathery in appearance. The leaf is oval in shape with a pointed leaf tip often growing one and half inches to three inches long and one to one and half inches wide. When you look at the leaf you will notice a sunken vein running from end to end on the leaf. Also, sunken side veins run from this center vein to the sides of the leaf, like bones from a fish.

The newer growth is not as dark as mature leaves on the plant, but this distinctive color difference makes the foliage stand out. However, if you have a plant in your home now and it has yellow leaves on the lower part of the plant it could be the result of the plant growing in a location that is too shady for the plant. From September to May your gardenias will do best in a window with full sun--if possible--or at least bright most of the day. Outside during the summer, keep them in the shade.

The foliage is nice but the flowers are the crowning glory of this plant. The flowers are double flowers with many rows of petals and resemble rose flowers. The flowers can grow from 1.5 to 3 inches in diameter, and as they begin to open the flowers will fill the room with a powerful perfume scent. The fragrance will last until the flower falls from the plant.

The flower is a rich creamy-white color, and will last on the plant for several weeks before turning creamy-yellow and falling from the plant. The flower buds look like Soft Serve Ice-Cream Cones,“ pale green in color and covered with whirled flower petal covers. As the buds open, they seem to slowly turn white. Most stems will make 3 to 5 buds on the tip of the branches; these will open one at a time, lengthening the flowering time on the plant.

Keep the plant outside until September as the plant will make flower buds better if the air temperature is below 70 degrees and the days grow shorter. Now the tricky part: gardenias love humidity and moisture on the foliage. Gardenias will not grow in a house with forced hot air heat or in a room that has a wood or coal stove in it. Forced hot water heat is not a problem if it comes from oil ,but if it comes from natural gas the plant will die quickly, as any unused gas fumes are toxic to the plant.

When the plant is inside the house always keep it on a tray filled with small stones and add water to the tray of stones daily. Daily misting with warm water is very important when the flower buds get ready to open. If your flower buds are falling from the plant before opening, the air around the plant is too dry, so use a humidifier to add moisture to the air; it will help the plant, and you'll breathe better, too. One more thing, keep plants away from drafts.

Fertilize every two weeks from May to September and monthly after that with Mir-Acid fertilizer. Gardenias love acid soils, so never use limestone near this plant or it will stop growing.

Repot in late winter when it has finished flowering; use a soil with lots of organic matter. When you repot the plant, cut back the tips of every branch to stimulate new growth--and watch it fill in and grow thicker faster. Keep the soil moist when growing outside, but cut back the watering when it is in bloom. Also never mist the flower when misting the foliage and buds, as water applied to the opened flower will make it turn brown.

If you purchase a plant from a florist or greenhouse, look at the pot shape. If the pot has straight sides and the soil looks like all compost it is the original soil it was grown in and this plant should be repotted when you get home--or have the greenhouse repot it for you. The soil used to grow the plant is artificial and will dry up quickly. Also the plant is probably root-bound, so please repot into a larger pot with fresh soil to help hold moisture around the developing root system.

Gardenias are beautiful, fragrant and worth all the work that comes with them. Try one this fall or winter as your home may be perfect for this wonderful plant.

How to grow citrus plants indoors during the winter.

You do not have to live in Florida to grow good citrus plants. With today's new hybrids and grafting methods it is possible for you to grow a few oranges, lemons, limes, kumquat, and even grapefruit right in your living room no matter where you live.

They are not just citrus trees, they are decorative plants that will produce edible fruit and marvelous white flowers that are so fragrant that your entire home will smell of the great outdoors in spring time. Citrus plants are evergreen and the glossy, dark green, oval shaped leaves are even aromatic when crushed.

The flowers of the citrus are star-like and usually develop on the plant during the early spring in clusters on the tips of the branches. The flowers are about one inch in diameter and last on the plant for several weeks.

Citrus is traditionally pollinated by insects but because they are growing in an unnatural climate, your home, you will have to do the pollination by hand if you want fruit to form on the plant.

This will be fun--all you have to do is purchase a small artist's paint brush and tickle the flowers when you notice that the center of the flower has a yellow powdery substance forming on it. This is pollen; you have to move it from the pollen sacks and place it on the swollen center of the flower called the "pistil."

Move your pollen-covered brush from flower to flower every day that the flowers produce new pollen and new flowers open on the plant. I find that if you sing while you do this, it will work better! So "Buzz, Buzzz, Buzzzz." As the plant is accustomed to the romance of the buzzing bee, try this buzzing while your spouse or children are in the room and wait to hear the reaction from them.

Most years you will have new flowers and fruit at the same time on your plant as the fruit ripens slowly. If you're successful at pollinating the flowers, a small rounded fruit will form where the flowers were, and in time it will grow in size, forming a green fruit that will bend the branches it develops on. The fruit will form slowly and the color will change as it develops, from a dark green to orange or yellow depending on the fruit you are growing.

Grow Citrus in a sunny or bright lit window or in front of a sliding door, as the plant needs a lot of sunlight to make fruit indoors during the winter. When the weather changes and becomes frost-free place the plant outside in a full sun location until the fall arrives, then back indoors.

When you place the plant outside in the spring, I would like to see you repot the plant in a pot one size bigger but still small enough for you to handle. Use a good quality potting soil that contains a lot of organic matter like the new Espoma's Potting soil with mycorrhizae. Fertilize every 2 weeks, spring to fall and then monthly during the winter months.

Water the citrus plant weekly when the plant is outside and more often if the weather gets hot. During the winter, water sparingly while indoors but keep the soil moist; do not let it dry out. During the winter, it is best to keep the plant on the cool side--50 to 60 degrees if possible--and avoid temperatures above 70 degrees, as the plant is resting.

Fertilize with an acid-based fertilizer such as Mir-Acid and keep lime away from this plant. When you put the plant outside for the summer, add a little bit of Holly Tone organic fertilizer to give it a push and help the plant make new growth.

If you start to see the foliage color fading or turning yellow, use Mir-Acid fertilizer as a foliar feed. Citrus loves humidity, so keep the plant on a tray of stones that you can add water daily to. This will help provide moisture to the air around the plant. A humidifier will help keep the plant happy--and daily misting is wonderful also.

When you purchase plants, be sure that they are labeled as dwarf or grafted plants. This will insure that they will flower and fruit while still small, usually when the plant reaches 3 to 6 feet tall. Non-grafted plants will need to grow 10 feet plus to produce fruit in your home--like growing an apple tree in your house.

When you eat citrus and save the seeds for potting, they will grow, but because they are not grafted or dwarf they will not bear fruit for you unless you have real high ceilings. The plants are beautiful, the flowers smell great, and with some luck you can have "native citrus" in your living room at this time next fall, no matter where you live. Enjoy!

Selecting the best flowers for Thanksgiving

The flower that is most selected for decorating your Thanksgiving table is the chrysanthemum. This plant is the last flowering plant to bloom in our gardens outdoors, and because Thanksgiving is the last holiday of the fall season, it is most fitting that it be used to celebrate the holiday.

The flower colors are fitting for the season with yellow, gold, rust, orange, red, and many bi-colors. The chrysanthemum has been hybridized to produce new flower shapes like the daisy, spider types, pompom, and the most exciting Football types with flowers 4 to 6 inches in diameter.

The chrysanthemum was once a plant that grew well over two feet tall and just as wide but with modern technology, the size of the plant can now be controlled to fit on your table perfectly. Today's growth regulators can produce a plant for any table in your home. Growth regulators can also increase the size of the flowers on the plant. Thanks to many hours of research on the chrysanthemum, the greenhouse grower can now force the plant to be in perfect condition and the right stage of bloom for your dinner table.

Once the plant grower understood that the length of the day and temperature could determine when the plant would come into bloom, he was able to fool the plant into flowering at any time of the year. Each variety of chrysanthemums will mature at different time--and that is wonderful for the garden, because it gives you early, mid-season, and late flowering types.

Some varieties need 10 weeks to mature but the fancy varieties may take as long as 16 weeks. Knowing this, the greenhouse grower can adjust the length of the day by either turning on lights in the greenhouse at dusk to make the day longer or pull black cloth over the plants to shorten the length of the day. When they combine length of the day and growth regulators, the growers can now grow the perfect plant for your table.

The chrysanthemum is considered a gift-type flowering plant and has a relatively short flowering time in your home, about 2 weeks. This is due to the temperature in your home. The warmer the house is, the shorter will be the time flowers will last on the plant, so keep it cool and away from south facing windows and heat sources.

There is no need to fertilize, because once the flowers fade the plant should be disposed onto your compost pile. It's not worth the effort to make these plant re-bloom. Keep the plants moist and remove them from plastic or tinfoil pot covers, as they tend to block the sunlight and the foliage will turn yellow quickly. Also, these pot covers hold water and this water can rot the roots of the plant in just a couple of days.

The secret is how to select the best potted plant for your money. First, look at the foliage--it should be dark green and free from disease or insect problems. The last thing you want is to bring problems into your home with infected plants. Select the height and width you want for your table, along with the color of the flowers.

Now, I want you to look at the flower itself--this is important because the tighter the flower is in bud (but showing good color), the longer is will last on your table. The center of the flower should have some green in it and some of those flower petals should still be tight. This will tell you that some of the flower petals have not matured yet, helping it to bloom longer. If you're selecting cut chrysanthemums, look for the same things in the flower!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, enjoy your flowers, and turkey--and watch some football. Enjoy!

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.

Click here for details.


This Week's Question:

Scoleciphobia is a fear of...? (Hint: it's not a good phobia for a gardener to have.)

This Week's Prize: Healthy Garden, Healthy You, by Milo Shammas

Milo takes us through a storytelling journey of soil health, plant health, animal health and how they directly relate to human health.

BONUS: 100 easy-to-grow plants, their growing instructions, and their direct human health benefits and disease prevention properties.

Last Week's Question:

What Shakespearean character said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

Last Week's Winner:
Lauretta Leone

Last Week's Answer:

Last Week's Prize:
Healthy Garden, Healthy You, by Milo Shammas

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!

Autumn Maple Sugar Cookies
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger (optional)

Step by Step:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter together.
  • Add egg and vanilla and maple extracts and mix well.
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and spices. Gradually add to butter and sugar mixture.
  • Drop into small balls onto a nonstick cookie sheet. Decorate with sanding sugar or festive sprinkles.
  • Bake for 10-14 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies


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