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Edition 11.20 Paul Parent Garden Club News May 19, 2011
featured quote

FEATURED QUOTE :

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden."
~ Ruth Stout



Product Spotlight

Sweet Peet®

Benefits of Sweet Peet® Mulch:
Sweet Peet® is the premium mulch for flower and vegetable gardens. Sweet Peet® buffers both acid and alkaline (low and high pH) soils by helping to maintain the desired gardening "sweet spot." During its formulation, Sweet Peet® goes through a thermal stage where weeds and weed seeds are destroyed, preventing contamination in your garden.

When tilled in at the end of each season, Sweet Peet® enriches the soil, improves tilth, encourages beneficial earthworms and replenishes microbes that are often destroyed by harsh chemicals and acid rain.

Like most mulches, Sweet Peet® suppresses weeds by smothering the soil. But Sweet Peet does more; it is produced to optimize the naturally occurring cation exchange, which creates an undesirable growing medium for weeds.

Enriches the Soil
The all natural, organic ingredients of Sweet Peet® allows air and water movement through the soil. It increases soil fertility through the slow, natural breakdown of organic matter into essential plant nutrients.

Improves Tilth
Applying Sweet Peet® adds moisture retentative properties to the root zone and gives structural support for plants, while providing a medium for root growth and soil organisms.
Encourages Natural Growth

Sweet Peet® buffers both acid and alkaline (low and High pH) soils by helping to maintain the desired gardening Sweet Spot. It helps neutralize both acidity and alkalinity in the soil, nurturing the feeder roots of garden plants and encouraging natural growth.

Protects Against Chemicals
Sweet Peet® buffers the effects of acid rain. Sweet Peet® encourages beneficial earthworms and replenishes microbes that are often destroyed by harsh chemicals and acid rain.

For more information about Sweet Peet, please visit their website.


Dogwood

The king of the spring-flowering trees is the dogwood; from Florida north to Massachusetts, this is the most loved of all spring-flowering trees. This tree reminds me of the South with all of its beauty, the feathery strands of Spanish moss growing between its flowers on its branches. What would the Masters Golf Tournament be without all of these beautiful white and pink flowering dogwood trees creating a canopy of color over all those beautiful azaleas? If you have a garden with a bit of shade, the spring-flowering dogwood is the tree for you. When spring arrives, you too can enjoy the wonderful flowers of your dogwood as they brighten your garden as the trees of the Masters Golf Tournament do.

Have you ever heard of the legend of the dogwood? The dogwood of the past was a tree, larger than the mighty oak of today, that grew in the Middle East. It was valued for its strong wood, thick trunk and fine lumber but it did not flower then. The Romans chose this tree for the lumber to make the cross for the crucifixion of Christ. The dogwood was so distressed to be used for this purpose that it felt ashamed, and when Christ was nailed to the cross he could sense this. Jesus told the tree that "Because of your regret and pity for my suffering you will never grow large enough to be used for this purpose again. You shall grow slender, bent, and twisted and you shall blossom like no other tree with flowers to remind everyone this entire event. Your flowers will form a cross with two long and two short petals. The center of the outer edge of each petal will have a marking of a nail, stained like blood. In the center of the flower will be the crown of thorns worn on my head for all to see and remember this day." Take a minute today and look at the flowers on the tree, and you will better understand the legend of the dogwood tree.

The spring flowering dogwood will grow 20 to 25 feet tall and just as wide. The branches are smooth and dull gray; as the tree matures, they will become rough and almost scaly. The branches develop low on the tree and often grow very horizontal with a flat or rounded top. The growing habit is unique and distinctive, making the plant also very noticeable during the winter months because of its growing habit and appearance. If you're looking for something unusual for your garden, look at the weeping dogwood often found at larger nurseries. The branches seem to grow in layers, are very strong, and look like open arms inviting you to look at the flowers. The leaves grow 3 to 6 inches long, are oval with a point on the tip and the margins are a bit wavy. The leaves are deep green during the year but in the fall turn bright crimson red, lasting many weeks before falling from the tree. Today you can also find some varieties of dogwood with variegated foliage growing in milder climates.

The flowers form in April and last well into May and depending on the variety can be pure dusty white, soft pink and reddish-pink. The flowers have four petals that will grow 3 to 4 inches in diameter with a cluster of yellow polling sacks arranged in a circle in its center. As the flowers begin to fade, streaks of pink color will form in the wavy lines in the center of the petals just before they begin to fall. In warmer climates, you can also find double-flowering varieties with many flower petals.

If the bees visit your trees and do their job properly, the flower will be pollinated and a fruit will form where the flower once set on the branch of the tree. The fruits are bright red when ripe in September and will last on the tree until the birds eat them during the winter months. Each fruit will grow about an inch long and resembles a jelly bean; they sometimes grow in clusters on the tree. The fruits are noticeable on the tree during the winter until the birds eat them.

If you want to grow the spring-flowering dogwood in your yard, choose a location with a bit of shade if possible, but it will also grow in full sun. The tree does prefer a soil that is on the acidic side and one rich with organic matter but it must be well drained and there should never be any standing water around the plant. If planted in full sun, be sure to water the tree during the hot dry days of summer, as this is the time the tree is making flower buds for the following spring. When it's young, I would suggest that you make a large planting bed around the base of the plant 3 to 4 feet in diameter, add bark mulch 2 to 3 inches thick over the soil and plant flowers. If you do this, you will water and fertilize the flowers and the tree at the same time. This will help the tree to become established in your yard much faster and will also help it make flowers earlier in its life--and more of them. Trees grown in full sun will grow thicker and much fuller in appearance, causing them to lose some character, unlike those grown in partial shade.

When you plant your dogwood, always use compost and mycorrhizae microbes to help the roots form quickly. If the tree is over 6 feet tall, the tree should also be staked for the first year to prevent root damage during the winter by the winds. The white dogwood is stronger than the pink varieties of dogwood, so be sure to plant the pink varieties in a sheltered area away from the winds of winter. Growing up in Massachusetts we planted a white and a pink dogwood on my parents' front lawn and during a normal winter both trees had flowers in the spring. If we had a windy and cold winter the pink dogwood had many flower buds that dried out and never opened or the partially opened with only two of the four petals showing color. The spring-flowering dogwood buds have no covering on them, just the four petals folded over each other; that is why some years they dry out and fail to flower. If this happens to your trees, spray the buds in the fall with an antidessicant like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt Stop in October.

Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone or Dr. Earth Acid loving plant food. When you apply lime to your lawn, keep it away from the planting bed. This is a great tree for adding to your landscape if you do not have one already. Plant the spring-flowering dogwood as a specimen on the corner of your home, in the middle of your lawn or, better still, in groups at the end of your property for a show of spring color in a planting bed with perennials or spring-flowering bulbs. Dogwoods do not like road salt, so keep them away from the side of the road or your driveway if you use salt during the winter.

If you have tall-growing pines, oaks, and maples that had their branches cut back to let in some sunlight to your yard, scatter small dogwoods here and there under them for a natural woodland look to your property. This dogwood will grow well in the same area as rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel, and when they are planted together, your property will look like the golf course where the Masters tournament is played. Dogwoods look wonderful if you place upward-facing night lighting under them--the shadows will be wonderful in the summertime as well as during the winter. Enjoy!

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fothergilla gardenii

If you're looking for something unusual to plant in your garden this year that will catch the eyes of your friends and neighbors, look no further than the fothergilla. Of all the shrubs and trees I have seen in my many years of gardening, this plant stands out because of the flowers it makes in the springtime during April and May. The flowers are white and fragrant a real bonus. Each flower cluster will grow 1 to 2 inches long and about 1 inch wide, not very large, but it is shaped like a baby bottle brush used to clean the used bottle. Each flower petal is 1/2 to 3/4 inches long and tubular, with a tiny opening on the tip that is the thickness of a round tooth pick--delicate.

When the plant is in full bloom, it will look like a Fourth of July firework display on the plant. It is very unusual and the white color of the flowers is bright and showy. As the flower petals begin to form and open, they begin as a green-yellow thread that quickly turns white. The flowers form on the tips of the branches of the plant before the foliage develops and last well until the leaves form on the plant or longer. The best flowers are on plants grown in full sun but if the plant does get some shade, they are still nice, just not as plentiful. Fothergilla will flower every year no matter what the winter weather was like.

The foliage of this plant is also special; each leaf will grow 1 to 3 inches long and about 1 inch wide. It looks like a fat oval leaf with a somewhat blunt tip, and smooth-to-toothed leaf edge, depending on variety. The leaf is dark blue-green and some hybrids are almost blue--in the shade less blue and more green because of less sunlight. In the fall, more magic for your garden, as the foliage will turn yellow, orange, and red on each leaf at the same time. The color is more brilliant in full sun than in part shade, but still beautiful. The color lasts a long time on the plant, and it changes with the colder weather and frost during the fall season.

Fothergilla will do best in a soil rich in organic matter. The more peat moss or compost you add when you plant, the better the plant will grow for you. If your soil is sandy, dig a big hole, remove the sand and backfill with top soil that has been conditioned with compost, animal manure or peat moss. Acidic soil is best for this plant, so be sure to keep lime products away from the plant. Plants like a moist soil to grow in; adding bark mulch on the garden after planting will help retain moisture around the plant during the heat of summer. If your soil has clay in it, it's O.K.--but the plant will not tolerate standing water around its roots. Plant the fothergilla in a raised planting bed if drainage is a problem in your garden. This plant will also grow very well on the side of a sloping hill or embankment to keep the plant happy and healthy.

The branches of this plant seem to all come out of the ground individually in a cluster when the plant is young, and do not branch out until it matures. These branches are strong, upright-growing and gray. The plant grows thick with these branches. When the flowers fade, no fruit or cone will form on the plant. The winter shape is not special, but the plant can tolerate lots of snow on it because of the upright branching and has little to no winter damage. Fothergilla will do well in a climate with -20 degree temperature and grows throughout most of New England and south to Florida.

Fothergilla was not grown much as a landscape plant when I first started to work in the nursery industry during the 60's. In the past 20 years, the plant has created much interest because of its flowers, foliage and hardiness; it can now be found in many nurseries.

Use this plant in a foundation planting around your home, mixed in deciduous shrub beds with quince, forsythia, and the early-flowering Rhododendron mucronulatum or in mass planting with evergreen shrubs that flower at this time of the year, like 'P.J.M' rhododendrons, azaleas and hollies. This plant will make a wonderful background hedge when planted behind the perennial flower garden to draw entrees to your bleeding hearts, hellebores and spring flowering bulbs. In the fall with its yellow, orange and red foliage the plant will add extra excitement to that fall flowering mum growing in your garden.

Fothergilla will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide if pruned regularly as it finishes flowering. This is the best time of the year to prune the plant and help stimulate more flowers for next spring. If not pruned each year, the plant can grow up to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. If you can prune every year, the plant will develop a mushroom cap-like appearance making it formal; not pruning it will let it open up, giving it a wild or more natural look.

If you like a taller growing variety, look for fothergilla major, as it will grow 6 to 10 feet tall and wide--if not pruned, often it can grow as tall as 15 feet. This taller growing variety is a bit hardier and will do very well in exposed area with lots of wind, weather, and temperatures to -30 degrees. The flowers are also larger--2 inches plus long and 1 .75 inches wide. If you like the size and shape of the burning bush/Euonymus alatus and where you live it is no longer available, this would be a good plant for you to substitute for it. It will make a great hedge; its fall color is more orange but just as outstanding to look at in the fall, with the bonus of spring flowers that the burning bush does not have.

Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone or Dr. Earth acid loving shrub fertilizer with Pro-Biotic. Again, keep lime products away from the plant or you will have fewer flowers on the plant in the spring. The plant will attract butterflies and early hummingbirds because of the shape of the flowers, and early honey bees do love the fragrance of the flower and its nectar. Cut some of the taller growing stems and place the branches in a vase of water for wonderful cut flowers for the kitchen table. Enjoy!!

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May To-Do List

1. This is the time to spread limestone or wood ash around your clematis vines. Use a couple of handful of lime per clematis plant and work into the soil to keep them flowering and if you notice any dead or broken branches remove them now. Clematis will do better if the first foot of the plant is shaded on the sunny side of the plant. Place a brick or cobblestone standing up a couple of inches in front of the plant to create shade on the stem. This will cool the stems during the heat of summer and prevent damage during the winter also. Feed them with a granular fertilizer like Plant Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub fertilizer with Pro-Biotic.

2. If you have birches on your property and last year you had brown leaves on the tree, you had a problem with birch leaf miner. This is a pest that begins as a tiny moth-like that will lay eggs in the new leaves as they form on the tree. The egg will hatch and soon a nymph will eat the center tissue in the leaf, making it brown and killing it. The days of spraying are over; today we can treat the plant with Bayer Tree and Shrub Insect Control by pouring the solution at the base of the tree. This systemic product will be absorbed by the roots and taken up to the top of the tree, protecting every leaf on the tree for the entire year. No more sprays drifting on you, and the entire tree is protected--not just what you could reach with the sprayer. Also, rain is no longer a problem when applying.

3. Peonies are now growing quickly with the heat, and it's now time to place the cages around the plant before the flowers form. These plant supports will hold up the flower stems and preventing the flowers from falling to the ground. The flowers stay clean and bloom will last much longer on the plant. If your peonies are not blooming it could be they are planted too deep in the garden. Dig with your finger near the stem until you feel the base of the plant, it should be no deeper than on knuckle deep. If deeper than that, remove some of the soil or mulch around the plant for now but in the fall dig them up and raise they to the surface of the soil or they will never flower for you again. If you notice ants crawling on the flower buds of the plant , LEAVE THEM ALONE, as they are removing the waxy protection on the bud allowing the buds to expand and flower. If you kill the ants you will have no flower this year. If you have no ants on the plant, place a tablespoon of grape jelly at the base of each plant and rub some of the jelly on the buds; they will come and do the job for you.

4. Your blue hydrangeas need to be fertilized with Holly Tone fertilizer now, and a soil acidifier called aluminum sulfate to make the flowers a more intense blue. The more acid the soil is, the bluer the flower will be; if you add lime or wood ash around the plant, you will change the flower color to pink. Also its time to prune back the plant; remember to NEVER prune these summer-flowering hydrangeas in the fall or your stems can dry out with the winter weather and wind. Hydrangeas flower on buds that develop on old wood/branches made last year--you know, those dead-looking sticks on the plant right now. Prune the branches that are getting to be too tall for your garden this way. Wait until the buds begin to swell on these dead looking sticks and show signs of green leaves. When you prune, you must leave on each stem that you cut 3 or more sets of buds to have flowers this summer. The new shoots that develop at the base of the plant are stems for next year's flowers on older varieties of hydrangeas. The newer varieties will flower on both new and old wood on the plant. These rules are for the Macrophylla family of hydrangeas--sometimes called mopheads.

5. Canadian Hemlocks are wonderful evergreens trees with one problem--a tiny insect called "wooly adelgid." This insect is covered with a cotton-like covering to protect it against predators and insecticides. It is found on the underside of the needles in groups feeding on your plant at the tips of the branches, where the new growth was made last year. It feeds on the plant by sucking on the needles like a mosquito feeds on your blood. If untreated, these insects will kill your plant in just 2 or 3 years--and I mean a tree 25 to 50 feet tall. The best time to control them is now and the most effective product to use is Bayer Tree and Shrub Insect Control, because it is systemic and the roots will move the product to the top of the tallest tree in your yard in just a few weeks. No spraying is more effective than this product for the home owner. Lift up the branches and check them now or you will lose all your privacy and shade in a very short time.

6. Now is also the best time to control broadleaf weeds in your lawn. Use a Weed and Feed product--Step Two on the Four Step program--when the weather is calling for NO RAIN for the next 24 hours or longer. It will work best if you have not cut your lawn in a few days so the weed has lots of growth to absorb the weed killer. Apply first thing in the morning when the grass is moist with morning dew, so the product can stick to the moist foliage better. Keep pets and children off the grass until it dries. The powder you applied will dissolve in the water on the foliage and turn into a liquid to be absorbed into the foliage. It will then move down the plant to destroy the root system. This product will not harm the grass, only kill broadleaf weeds; if it is a combination product it will also feed the good grass and help the grass fill in the hole left by the dying weeds. If the lawn is thick, it will choke out weeds from growing in your lawn. Do not water for 24 hours so turn off sprinklers and do not cut the lawn for 2 to 3 days to give the product time to work properly.

7. If you have roses, feed them now and be sure to remove any dead or broken branches on the plant. Check for suckers growing on the plant, as this growth will rob the plant of energy needed to make flowers. Most roses are grafted and the graft looks like your fist, a swollen area at the ground area on the plant. Any growth above the graft will make flowers, anything below is a sucker and will never flower, just rob your plant. This growth will also grow very fast and tall with no side shoots; remove it whenever you see one on your plants.

8. Spring-flowering bulbs must be fertilized now if you want flowers next year. You also must remove the faded flower on the plants, or the plant will use its energy to make seed and not flower buds. The seed that forms will not make you new plants for the future. You must also allow the plant to mature the foliage it is making, as this foliage is the factory of the plant that is helping to make energy for next year's foliage and flowers. If you remove the foliage now you will get nothing next year. The plants need 6 to 8 weeks to do this properly, so leave the foliage alone!!!

9. Now is also the best time to prune back any non-flowering shrub in your yard before the new growth really gets going. All evergreen like yews, arborvitae, juniper, spruce, pines, hemlock, ilex, boxwood, and hollies are best pruned now to control height and size of the plant. By pruning now, you control the size of the plant; when the new growth develops it will fill in any holes that develop with the pruning. Pruning will also stimulate the plant to make more new growth than normal, keeping it thick and full looking. Say to your plants, "I am doing this for your own good." Never prune with electric tools unless you have a very large hedge--do individual plants with a hand tool, or your property will look like Disney. Disney is not real!!!

10. Buy a birdbath and watch the birds take a bath. These same birds will eat mosquitoes and other non-beneficial insects in your yard that feed on your plants and you. They will wake you with a wonderful song in the morning and fill the sky with color and movement. What better way to start off your day than with a happy song. Enjoy!

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Garden Journal

Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed personally by Paul, makes a perfect gift for gardeners. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a heavy-duty D-ring binder.

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.


trivia


This Week's Question:

On what continent will you NOT find frogs and toads?

This Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Seed Starter Mix

  • Contains Myco-toneŽ mycorrhizae
  • For all seedlings and cuttings.
  • Promotes Root Growth.
  • In 8 and 16 qt. bags.
Myco-tone

Last Week's Question
If you've ever seen okra in bloom, you'll know that it has a beautiful flower. It was once mis-classified as "Hibiscus esculentus" and is still sometimes referred to that way. It is in the same family as hibiscus but it is not a hibiscus. What is the correct genus of okra?

Last Week's Winner:

Last Week's Answer:
Abelmoschus

Last Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Seed Starter 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!


Fried Green Tomatoes

What You'll Need:

  • 3 to 4 unripened tomatoes, cut into approximately ¼ inch slices
  • Vegetable oil, butter, or bacon grease for frying
  • 1 cup flour or fine-ground cornmeal [1]
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Dredge the tomato slices in the flour to coat both sides; shake off excess.
  • Place in hot pan and brown quickly until golden (tomatoes should be slightly softened but not mushy).
  • Adjust heat as needed. Add more oil as needed between batches.
  • Place briefly on paper towels to remove excess oil, then on a large platter in a single layer.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

[1] You can also use coarse-ground cornmeal or breadcrumbs; if you do, you'll need to first dip the tomato slices into beaten egg.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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