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Edition 11.04 Paul Parent Garden Club News January 27, 2011
featured quote


"The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies."
~Gertrude Jekyll

Product Spotlight

Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food

It is now easy to achieve a spectacular landscape or container garden. You can bring your creativity to life in the garden with the help of Miracle-Gro.

  • Grow more spectacular flowers, bigger vegetables, lush foliage and stronger trees and shrubs!
  • The easiest way to feed and water your garden. Instantly feeds through both the leaves (foliar) and roots (soil zones).
  • Ideal for all plants (indoor and outdoor), flowers, vegetables, and all soil and water conditions.
  • Safe for all plants--won't burn when used as directed.


I have always been fascinated by clivia, the wonderful flowering houseplant that most of us have never seen or grown but have heard a lot about. It has a bad name because it takes too long to come into flower and most of us have no idea how to make it flower. Today you will learn the story about this plant: where it comes from, its relatives, and, yes, how to make it bloom every year in your home.

Clivia is native to the forest, where it grows in damp, shady places between rocks where the soil is well drained and temperature fluctuates during the four seasons. It comes from southern Africa where temperatures stay a relatively cool 70-80 degrees during the summer and 50 to 60 degrees during the winter. If you can copy these growing conditions, you will have flowers on your plant in just 3 to 6 years depending on the size and age of your plant. This plant is not for immediate gratification but is well worth the wait; once it does begin to bloom, it will happen every year.

If you can find a plant and it needs to be repotted, make sure the soil is rich and well drained. The pot or container you select must have drainage holes in it. Contrary to what I was once told, the young plant should be repotted every spring to give the plant roots room to grow. Repotting is best done in the spring as pot-bound plants will not flower as easily.

The clivia plant has foliage that looks like dark green straps, which grow 2 to 3 inches wide and 12 to 18 inches long. The tip of the leaf can be blunt or have a bit of a point--but not a sharp point. These leaves come out of a central stem and grow opposite each other from a main base. When you look at this plant, you will think of the amaryllis plant that we all grow during the Christmas holidays. There is a reason for this--because it is in the amaryllis family. Like the amaryllis plant, the flower develops in the center of the foliage each winter. Unlike the amaryllis, this plant does not go dormant or rest; it will stay green and grow all year long.

The clivia plant has trumpet-shaped flowers 2 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The flower has 6 bright orange petals with bright yellow pollen sacks in the center of the flower. The flowers develop on the top a thick stem that grows 10 to 18 inches tall. These flowers grow in a cluster of 5 to 10 individual flowers; their number depends on how you treated the plant during that year. The better you care for the plant, the more flowers the plant will make.

Clivia will normally flower from February to May if you follow these directions. From September to February it is important that you keep the plant cool, in a room with bright light but not sunny, like a north facing window! Room temperature of 50 to 55 degrees is best to encourage flower bud development; maintain this until you see a flower stock form. Once the flower forms, move it to a room with half bright light and half shade, like an east or west window. Warmer temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees will help to lengthen the flower stem and help the flowers to open.

In the summer, place the plant outside on a deck or patio that is shady, NO direct sun except early in the morning or late in the afternoon--or the foliage will get sunburned and turn white. The plant can stay out from mid-May to mid-September or until first threat of frost.

Watering is important; during the time it spends outside during the summer water often but avoid soggy soils. Provide good drainage, no saucer under plant pots to prevent plant from sitting in water. When you bring the plant inside from September to February, it needs to rest so keep the soil almost dry. When flowers form keep plants moist but again not wet.

Fertilizer is also important and you should ONLY feed the plant from March to August and every 2 weeks. Use Miracle-Gro or Neptune Harvest when watering the plant or Osmocote pellet fertilizer during this time period. It is important not to feed the other months as the plant will go dormant and needs to rest.

Flowers will not develop if you do not provide a rest period or if you begin to water the plant more too early in the spring indoors, or you did not water enough while the plant was outside during the summer. Flower stalks should be growing before you begin to increase the watering of the plant.

Growing a clivia plant is like growing a Christmas cactus, but a bit more work. Well worth the effort if you are a gardener who likes spectacular and unusual flowering plants in your home. Enjoy!


Black Knot Disease on Flowering and Fruiting Plum Trees

Black knot disease is occasionally found on spring-flowering plum and fruiting plum trees in your yard if you have wild cherries growing in your neighborhood. Here is what to look for and how to control it to keep it from destroying your trees. Black knot looks like a rough black swelling or growth on the twigs or stems of the tree. It will begin as an elongated growth on the woody portion of the tree--not on the foliage.

The growth begins where the leaf develops on the small twig or branch of the tree. It begins in the spring of the year as a small green bump at the base of the leaf and is soft to touch. As the summer days warm up, the growth will begin to turn brown and harden, soon turning black. It will begin to encircle the entire branch like a ring around it. By the following spring it will become noticeable.

In the spring the black knot growth begins to swell rapidly and will become very noticeable on the plant. This growth begins to crack open, twisting the branch in different directions, and even oozing liquid. The growth begins to make fruiting sacks called "asci." These sacks contain an infected spore called "ascuspores" which will be ejected into the air during wet and stormy weather. These spores can travel several hundred yards with the wind.

The spores will only infest the new green growth that the plant made that spring, not the older growth. If the weather stays wet, these succulent green twigs will be infected by the spores. Only wet weather for several days will germinate the spores on the branches of the tree, so rainy springs will give you a greater problem.

The spores will drill into the twig tissue and begin to infect the tissue of the plant. This all happens when the buds of the tree are still white and dormant to the time that the new growth has stopped forming on the tree. If you are going to treat the plant for the problem, the best time to apply a fungicide is when the threat of stormy weather is here. Putting the fungicide on the plant before the stormy weather arrives will kill the spores when the spores land on the plant, and this will prevent them from germinating on the plant. Temperatures in the 50's are perfect for disease problems to spread from plant to plant.

Here is what you have to do to control the problem on infected trees or, better still, prevent this from happening to you on your trees. Begin by surveying the neighborhood for wild cherries growing near you. If you find them growing near you, check them for infection every spring before the buds begin to open on the plant. If you find black knot disease growing on them, remove the plant if possible or at least remove the infected branches. If you have trees that have the infection, prune out all branches with black knot growing on them as soon as you notice the problem. Carefully check them several times during the growing season for green bumps, brown growth, and black growth forming at the base of the new leaves on the new growth.

When you prune, cut down 4 to 6 inches below the infection, as the problem will move down the stem of the tree. If the growth is on major stems that are large, you can cut the black knot out of the tree by removing the black disease growth right to the wood of the tree. Make sure you also remove half an inch before and after the infection growth of the plant.

You can also find the disease on the twigs of apricots, cherries, and peaches but they are not usually a problem. Now, start a spraying program by spraying the trees when the trees are dormant in the spring with rain in the forecast, when at pink bud stage, at full-bloom stage and every week for 3 weeks after bloom.

Recommended fungicides are Ferbam, lime sulfur, and Tribasic Copper sulfate sprays. When you're done pruning, be sure to burn all infected branches and plant parts or bury them. One last thing, when you prune, dip your tools in bleach after each cut to sterilize them before you make the next cut or you could spread the problem even more on the plant.

If the disease is neglected, insects like aphids will live in the growth and tree borers can enter the plant through the growth, killing the tree.

Remember that most of the time the problem does not become visible to you until the year after the tree was infected, so get on the problem as soon as possible

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Looking out Your Window at Your Winter Garden

If you're looking out your window and all you see is snow, than you're not looking hard enough at your garden for the possibilities. Look at your evergreens at their shape; are they conical, rounded, cylindrical, or even weeping in appearance? Think character. They are "Green Giants," guarding your house from the cold wind of winter and they are home for your birds to stay warm and sheltered.

Your deciduous trees have no leaves of green or autumn gold--but look at how their branches grow. Do the branches grow like a ladder, growing straight across like open arms looking to welcome the arrival of spring? Are they growing upright like they are cheering on the sunshine to come back and warm us up or are they drooping down like they are fed up with all the winter weather?

Look at the bark of the birch trees and think of how the Native Americans made canoes with its bark to move across this great land on the water. The weeping willow, with its golden bark cascading branches that sway with the wind will tell you, "it's windy out here and you better dress for it."

The hollies are covered with red berries to feed the birds during the stormy days of winter and welcome the new birds that will arrive in the warmth of spring. The evergreen leaves on the plant are telling you that soon pure white flowers will bring a new season--one of warmth and sunshine.

Your rhododendrons will tell you how to dress your children during the winter. Look carefully and you will see that the colder the temperatures are, the tighter the leaves will curl up, like a good hug to warm up with. If they look like pencils, be sure to put on your hat and gloves because, baby it's cold outside!

The bark of the red twig dogwood is shiny and smooth right now, as it pokes through the deep snow cover. Is it telling you that Valentine's Day is just a few weeks away and not to forget your sweetheart, or you will be left out in the cold snow?

The ornamental grasses that are now brown and tattered with wind swept flowers on them look tired. But look closely--they are telling you what direction the wind is blowing, like a weather vane on your roof.

Your magnolias have big fat flower buds on the tip of the branches and they are ready to burst open with bright white flowers just like the snow on the ground. Yes, you will like the color white better as flowers when spring arrives, right?

You cannot see the grass now and that is a good thing, because you are fed up with all it took to make it grow, to keep it green, and the work it took to mow it and care for it. When the snow melts, you will love the sight of it and your senses will soon crave the fragrance of a fresh-cut lawn. Remember running barefoot through it?

Your spring-flowering bulbs are buried deep in the ground now and would love to see a bit of sunshine just like you, believe me. As soon as the snow melts, they will jump right out of the ground and fill your world with every color of the rainbow to lift your spirits after this long winter. Just wait. They will be out soon.

I can hear your forsythias calling you to come out of the house now and prune some branches from them. Just cut a few branches 2 to 3 feet tall and bring them inside your home. Put them in a tall vase of water and in just 2 weeks the spring flowers of golden yellow will help cheer you up and help melt all that snow. Do that pruning now, as the snow could get deeper later.

Go to your tool shed and bring in a small pot filled with soil. Add a bit of grass seed; set it on your window sill and in just two weeks it will be growing. One night when all are paying attention to the television set, place the pot of green grass on the hassock. Now take off your shoes and socks and let the grass tickle your feet. The reaction will be wonderful and you will feel better.

To help make you feel better about winter, think about this:

Daylight Saving is March 13, and that is only 45 days away.

The first day of spring and official end of winter is March 20--and that is only 52 days away!

The Red Sox start playing in Boston on April 8th against those D@&# Yankees--and that's only 71 days away!

Easter is April 24, a real spring time holiday, and April 24 is only 87 days away!

It will all be over soon and you can then plant some new ideas for next year!

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Ireland Tour

Join Paul Parent for a garden tour of the Emerald Isle! LAST week to sign up before price increase by airlines that takes effect on February 1, 2011. Also, we are looking for a single female to share a room with a fellow female traveler and save over $400.00 as roommate.

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.

Garden Journal

Is your favorite valentine a gardener? This journal, autographed personally by Paul, makes a great gift. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a heavy-duty D-ring binder. Includes free delivery!

Also included:

  • 8 tabbed sections
  • 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
  • Weather records page
  • 6 three year journal pages
  • Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
  • 3 annual checklist pages
  • Plant wish list page
  • 2 large pocket pages
  • Sheet of garden labels
  • 5 garden detail sheets
  • 5 graph paper pages for layouts
  • 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Click here to order online.


This Week's Question:

The fuchsia was named after Leonhart Fuchs. The man who did the naming also has a genus of flowering plants named after him. Who was he?

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:
The heaviest seed in the world comes from a plant called...? (Botanical name, please.)

Last Week's Winner:
Martha Mowry

Last Week's Answer:
Lodoicea maldivica (Coco de Mer is the common name).

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!

Cream Cheese Potato Soup

What You'll Need:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup onions, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cut into chunks

Step by Step:

  • Combine broth, potatoes, onion, and spices.
  • Boil on medium heat until potatoes are tender.
  • Smash a few of the potato cubes to release their starch for thickening.
  • Reduce to low heat.
  • Add cream cheese.
  • Heat, stirring frequently, until cheese melts.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Contact Information:

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(800) 259-9231 (Sunday 6 AM to 10 AM)

(207) 985-6972

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

Phone Hours:
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A Customized Gardening Tour of Ireland

Join us for a journey to the beautiful gardens of the Emerald Isle.

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