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Edition 11.35 Paul Parent Garden Club News September 1, 2011
Featured Quote

Featured Quote:

"Gardening gives one back a sense of proportion about everything--except itself."
~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep, 1968

Product Spotlight

Wild Flower Farm Eco-Lawn Grass Seed

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Angel's Trumpet

Many years ago, while on vacation in Florida, I came across a very unusual plant in a Botanical Garden, called the Angel's Trumpet. It was late in the day and the gardens were getting ready to close; as I proceeded to leave, a lovely perfumed scent caught my attention. Partially hidden on the right side of the main entrance were several large containers that were planted with these magnificent flowering plants. I had to see what smelled so good and then I saw the flowers... "WOW" was all I could say! One of the garden guides walked up to me and said, "aren't they magnificent? And their fragrance is just incredible tonight. " I was lost for words, something unusual for me. I had never seen a plant more beautiful than this plant before and the fragrance was like perfume.

The garden guide could sense my amazement and spent the next 15 minutes telling me about this plant as he prepared to close the gardens for the day. He first told me that I was lucky to be here at this time of the day because it was only fragrant at the end of the day. The Angel's Trumpet is fragrant from 6 PM to sunrise; during the day, very little fragrance comes from the flowers. The flowers were incredible--over a foot in length, and the plant was covered with them. I was like a child in a candy store; my wife later told me that my eyes so big, she thought I was going to explode with excitement. All I could say was that I have to have one and the guide began to laugh because he knew I lived in Maine and the plant would not grow there unless I had a greenhouse.

When I got home, I did my research on this plant, and the following year, when we went back to Florida to visit my son Matthew, I purchased several small plants to bring back to Maine with me. Now let me tell you about this plant, because you too can grow the Angel's Trumpet in a container at your home. The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of Angel's Trumpet. The first one is grown from seed and is also called Datura. This type of Angel's Trumpet will grow up to 3 feet tall and just as wide if you can fertilize it EVERY week once it gets established in your container. Fertilizer will make the difference in the size of the plant and the number of flowers on the plant during the summer months.

This seed-grown variety is an annual flowering plant; when started indoors during late March to early April, it will begin to flower in June and last until frost. This plant will make a round seed pod about 2 inches in diameter when the flower fades and the pod is covered with short 1/2" spines. If you allow the pod to dry on the plant it will turn brown and crack open, revealing many 1/4" shiny black seeds. When the pods turns brown, pick the pods from the plant and store in a paper bag so when they do crack open, you will not lose any of the seeds.

The flowers of the Datura will grow up to 10 inches long and resemble the flowers of the Easter lily. The flower is not as fragrant as the other type but the plant will have more unusual flowers, because you will be able to purchase seed that makes single or double flowers on the plant. Also the seed-grown varieties come in bi-color flowers such as pink and white and purple and white--just spectacular. You can grow them in a container or in your garden for the summer, but they are an annual and do not do well indoors during the winter months. Save your seed because your friends and neighbors will want this plant in their garden for next year.

The second type of Angel Trumpet is called Brugmansia, and this is a woody plant that is best grown from cuttings. The bigger your pot is, the bigger the plant will grow, so always use a plastic pot to make it easier for you to move the plant around your yard. If you want to keep the plant from year to year, the plant must be grown in a container, as it does not do well when dug up and repotted in the fall to bring indoors for the winter. This Angel's Trumpet is a tropical plant and loves the sun and heat of summer. The plant can be put outside when the threat of frost is over, about the same time that geraniums are planted.

Your container should be filled with a well-drained potting soil and should be no smaller than 15 to 18 inches wide and tall. The plant will grow very quickly, especially as the day time temperatures increase to 80 and above. I recommend that you use Soil Moist Granules to help hold water in the container when planting as the plant will need to be watered every day when it's hot out. Also add several tablespoons of Osmocote fertilizer to the potting soil when you plant as this plant will respond to fertilizer like nothing you have ever seen before. I also want you to fertilize the plant every week starting in June with something like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting liquid fertilizer. The more you fertilize the plant, the bigger it will grow and the more it will flower.

The flowers of this type of Angel's Trumpet will grow 12 inches plus long and the trumpet opening will be up to 8 inches wide with several 1 to 2 inch horns on the trumpet flared opening. The flowers are so big that they always hang down on the plant making them even more visible to you. Each flower will last 3 to 5 days on the plant, depending on your watering of the plant. Keep it moist and the flowers will last longer on the plant. The Angel's Trumpet flowers come in white, yellow, many different shades of pink, and peach. There is now a new variegated green and white leaf variety that will produce white flowers. I have one and it should be in bloom next week.

This is a great plant; if you do not live in Florida, do not worry because all you have to do is put the plant in your basement for the winter and it will go dormant. I keep my plant outside until they call for a frost and bring it indoors at night to keep it safe but it does go back outside if the weather is still nice during September and even early October. When the weather starts to stay cold I move it into my basement until April first. You must have a cool basement where it will not freeze but not a heated basement as the plant must stay cool to stay dormant. If you have a crawl space under your house, close the air vents and lay it down on its side for the winter. DO NOT water the plant while it is dormant in your basement or it will begin to grow; it must stay dormant!

In March, bring it out of the basement upstairs to a warm room and plenty of sunlight. Water the plant with a mixture of Miracle-Gro fertilizer and cut back the plant to half its size. This will stimulate new growth at the base of the plant as well as on the dormant branches. After a couple of weeks, if you have any branches that do not make new growth--remove them. If you have a tall branch that is sprouting well, cut it off at the base of the plant and use this tall stem to make a tree form plant.

When you put it away for the winter, water the plant well but do not prune the plant; keep it intact. Stop fertilizing the plant by October first if you're going to put it into dormancy. You can also put it in your home by a sliding glass door for the winter and it will continue to flower as long as you keep feeding the plant and keep it warm. If you do not feed it enough the older leaves will turn yellow and fall from the plant. The plant will attract butterflies and hummingbirds but it should not be grown in a home with small children as all parts of the plant are poisonous.

The plants roots very easily and you can cut the tall stems into 12 inch pieces and make new plants when you use rooting powder. You can also take an entire stem 3 to 4 feet long and strip off most of the leaves except for those near the tip of the plant. Dip the fresh cut end into rooting powder, push the stem into a container filled with fresh potting soil. In just a few days, the tall stem will begin to root, giving you the beginning of an Angel's Trumpet tree from the plant. Once the plant begins to form several new leaves, pinch off the top inch of the plant and several side branches will quickly develop, creating a tree shape.

Seedlings or rooted cuttings can be purchased on the internet or if you live near a large greenhouse, ask them if they can get large plants for you. The picture of the plant on this newsletter is my plant. In March, it was just a 4 foot tall rooted cutting that I bought in Florida. You can grow this plant as well as I can--as long as you remember this: lots of sunlight, warm weather, fertilize every week and water every day. You can do this--enjoy!

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Selecting the best type of grass seed for your lawn

Have you ever walked into a garden center looking for a package of grass seed and found yourself looking at a wall filled with many different type of blended grass seed packages and wondered, "Which is right for me?" It's almost as confusing as going to the grocery store and trying to pick a box of cereal for breakfast! (I think I will have toast.)

Here is what I want you to do before you go to the garden center this fall. Take a piece of paper and answer these questions before you leave. How big is the area, length by width; if not sure pace it off and write down how many paces; the store attendant can help you determine the size of the area to be seeded.

  • Is the area sunny or shady?
  • If a combination of the two, when is it sunny and when is it shady, how long for each and at what time of the day is it sunny or shady?
  • Now take a shovel or garden trowel and dig a hole in the area to be seeded and see how deep the top soil is, 3 inches...6 inches deep? it will matter.
  • Also what is under the top soil, sand, clay, yellow hard pan? It will make a difference in the seed you will need to use. Is the area flat, does it slope or is it on the side of a hill? When it rains does the water sit on the surface? If so, how long?
  • Do you have trees growing on this area to be seeded? Will you be adding seed under the trees, and are the trees evergreen or leaf type?
  • Is there moss growing on this area now; have you ever applied lime or lime products to this area?
  • Have you ever had a soil test done? Are you adding new top soil over the existing soil--and how much new soil?
  • If there is grass growing there now, how much of the area is grass compared to weeds...or are you starting from scratch?
  • Have you used a weed killer product on this area lately, like Turf Builder Plus 2 or a Crabgrass preventer plus fertilizer. How long ago?
  • What will happen to the lawn when it is all growing and green: kids playing on it occasionally, or every day, football, baseball, or are you just going to look at it?
  • Do you have an irrigation system or do you drag out the hose when it needs to be watered? Or do you not water the lawn at all during the summer months?
  • Does your town have a water ban every summer?
  • Do you fertilize it during the year? How often will it be fed, with organic or regular lawn food and will you use a weed killer if needed?
  • Do you have animals and are they allowed to play on the grass, like a fenced in back yard?
  • Is the lawn area wide open to the wind and is it windy there?
  • Are you on the street (possible road salt), near a pond or wetlands?
  • How often do you cut your lawn and how short or tall do you like it?
  • One last you care what the neighbors think about your lawn, do you just want it green or do you want the perfect lawn and the best on the street?

(Maybe I will buy Cheerios for breakfast!)

If you still want to plant grass seed, take this information to the garden center and they will help you select the right grass seed combination for your new lawn. In the Northeast you will have five families of grass seed to choose from and I want you to know how they work and where they will work best for you. There are many different types of varieties of each family member and I will leave that to the garden center expert to determine for you.

#1 Kentucky Bluegrass is dark green, with a medium textured blade. Blue grass can spread by making tillers and underground rhizomes, and they have the ability to make a tight-knit attractive turf. Your seed will make a new plant and as that plant matures, the plant can send out these underground rhizomes and tillers to make new plants, as a strawberry plant sends out new runners. These runners will help to thicken your lawn when it is fed regularly. Blue grass does best in a heavy soil that is well drained and has good fertility, so it must be fed several times a year, every 6 to 8 weeks to stay thick. Water requirement is moderate to high during the summer months. If watering is a problem , the grass will lose some of its color but it will recover quickly when moisture returns.

Mowing height is 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches--but taller during the heat of summer is recommended. The plant is more upright growing and the only type of grass plant that is self-spreading with runners. Blue grass will do best in full sun to a bit of shade late in the day or first thing in the morning. It is not recommended for shady areas as the main seed type. The size of the seed is small and the cost is more expensive than most because you get more seed per pound than most others varieties. Blue grass will take as long as 3 weeks to germinate so be patient and keep watering to insure good germination. Once it germinates it will grow as fast as the other varieties of seed. If you want a SOD LAWN look, you will have to use a high bluegrass blend of seed. Bluegrass lawns will give you the best looking lawn but they will require the most maintenance and care-- so you might want to consider a blend with other types of grass seed.

#2 Fine Fescue Grass is medium green, and like its name has thin and narrow blades of grass. Fine fescue will also spread with tillers and short creeping rhizome type underground stems. Fine fescue is used extensively in seed blends designed for sun and shade situations. This grass seed will germinate quickly, establish itself quickly and make a wonderful nursery grass to provide protection against erosion for a slower growing grass like bluegrass problems early on. Because this grass seed germinates quickly you will see things happening fast and it will encourage you to keep watering and caring for the new seedlings.

The fine fescue family also includes 'Chewing' fescue and 'Creeping Red' fescue, making this family of grasses possible to grow almost anywhere in your lawn no matter where you are planting it. Sun or shade--this is the most versatile family of turf grasses used in blended seed for turf use today. Also, insect problems are very few with these grass plants. Their biggest problem is that you must plant the seed more heavily than most because many of the varieties grow in clumps and do not spread readily in the lawn.

You would not plant just fine fescue grass alone as a lawn but when blended with other varieties of Creeping and Tall fescue it will make a wonderful lawn. Great in low fertility or partial shade areas, it will also tolerate road salt better than most. Periods of hot and dry weather will cause color change and it is not as drought tolerant as bluegrass unless you do not cut it and allow it to grow on its own and become more natural. Mow at a height of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches tall or allow to mature and grow wild and natural at 6 to 8 inches--low maintenance like an eco-Lawn. As a natural lawn, fertilize spring and fall. You can also mow the grass only once a month as it does not grow as fast as bluegrass, saving you time.

#3 Tall Fescue grass is medium to dark green, and new hybrids have a wonderful medium texture like bluegrass does. Tall fescue will grow in clumps and will not make a thick lawn all by itself and is better used in a blend of seeds. It is extremely tough and will tolerate a lot of use like athletic fields and lawns with heavy traffic, so bring on the kids. This is a wonderful grass seed to blend with bluegrass seed when planting a new lawn or thickening an existing thin growing lawn.

Tall fescue has a very large growing root system and a root system that grows deep in the soil, making it perfect for soils on the sandy side. Roots can grow as deep as 2 feet or more in the ground and will perform very well in periods of heavy moisture or extended drought. Once established it will even stay green longer during summer drought and perform better than most other varieties of grass.

Mow this grass higher in your lawn at 2 to 3 inches tall cutting height--and taller during the heat of summer. Fertilize spring and fall but any additional fertilizer will create a very thick weed free lawn. Taller growing lawns always tend to keep out more weeds than those cut short and this grass does love to stay taller growing. Taller growing lawns also need less watering and less mowing during the season. Tall fescue is often used in areas where it is difficult to grow grass and it does make a wonderful plant to prevent erosion on slopes and steep hillsides. The seed will germinate very quickly, sometimes as fast as only a week, making it perfect when blended with slow germinating bluegrass seed. Tall fescue will also tolerate wet spots in your yard better than most.

Look for the new hybrids always as they will have a better texture in your lawn. Keep away from a variety called "Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue" because the blades of grass are very wide and coarse looking. However, it is very important to note that Tall fescue has fewer problems with insects than most other types of grass seed and disease problems are minimal.

#4 Perennial Rye Grass is dark green with medium to coarse leaf blade. Use hybrid varieties and stay away from "Common Perennial Ryegrass," as this old variety has a very coarse blade; it lies down easily when mowing, making your lawn look unruly. Perennial rye grass was once the best nursery grass to hold the soil together when seeding a new lawn but has now been replaced with tall fescue hybrids. This is a good inexpensive grass to blend with other seed and to use for sloping areas where the grass does not have to be perfect. It will germinate quickly and in warm soil just 3 to 4 days. The established plant will spread with tillers but is must be blended with other types of grass seed to create a good tight-knit turf; never use alone. Perennial rye grass will not tolerate hot or cool humid growing conditions for long periods, especially wet cool springs. Clay soil or soil that stays wet could become a problem because of disease.

Perennial rye grass should be fertilized spring and fall but it will do much better if you add a third feeding in late summer. Cut the grass at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches tall and taller during the summer months. The stems are weak and the grass does tend to fall over, so it will look better when mixed with other grass varieties. If you plant just perennial rye you will have a problem mowing the lawn, especially when it is wet, because it grows on soft stems and not upright like many other types of grasses. It is a great grass to blend with bluegrass seed when you have a heavily used area in your yard. Insect and disease problems are minimal and it will give you good year-round performance.

#5 Annual Rye Grass at one time was used widely to help retain the soil when using slow-germinating grasses like bluegrass but with the new perennial rye grasses and new tall fescue of today, it is no longer used in a quality seed blend. Remember that this is an "annual grass seed" and when the weather gets cold and the ground freezes it will die! If your seed blend has a lot of annual grass seed in the blend, the results will be a lawn in the spring with many open areas in your newly planted lawn. Pay a bit more for a seed blend that is all perennial; all your hard work will survive the winter and your new lawn will stay thick over the winter.

#6 Zoysia Grass is a warm weather grass and it will live in the Northeast and other parts of the country with cold weather and thrive very well. This is a wonderful fast growing grass that will quickly take over the area where it is planted but there is one major problem in a cold climate with this grass plant. The big problem is that the period that it is green is very short with cold weather! When you receive a good killing frost in the fall it will quickly turn brown; it will not die but your lawn will turn brown from middle to late September until the spring arrives. Now, in the spring, it will be brown while all other lawns will quickly green up in April. In May, possibly even as late as early June it will begin to green up as the soil and air temperature warm up.

In the Northeast and cold climate areas, it is beautiful for basically 4 months--June to September--and brown the other 8 months. There is one other problem with this grass plant and that problem is that the plant is unstoppable; it will take over your yard very quickly, choking out everything in its path. It moves quickly and will grow into flower beds creating a maintenance nightmare in planting areas, even those that have a thick layer of bark mulch. If you live from Washington D.C. south it will be green for 6 to 7 months but north of that stay away from this type of lawn!!!

One last thing to look for on the grass seed label:

1) Percentage of seed type by weight in the bag: bluegrass seed is small and it takes more seed per pound than perennial rye grass; 1 perennial rye grass seed weighs as much as 10 Bluegrass seeds, so less blue grass could give you more seed per bag. More bluegrass seed gives you better quality in the bag, up to 10 times more possible plants by the weight of the box of seed.

2) Other crop seed: not a noxious weed, but a weed that will grow in your lawn. Not acceptable!

3) Weed seed: percent by weight in the box. Not acceptable!

4) Inert Matter: Percent by weight in the box, filler such as seed hulls and grass stems found in cheap seed blends. Not acceptable!

5) Noxious Weeds: accept nothing but NONE FOUND printed on the label! If you do, you're planting problem weeds that are difficult to control!

6) Germination percentage of the seed variety must be 85% or higher. If you accept 50 % germination, for example, that means that only half of the bag will grow if things are perfect. Not acceptable!

7) Test date: This tells you when the seed was packaged and it MUST be this year's date or the percentage of seed expected to germinate will be less than listed--a real problem for you!

Use this as a guide and with the help of a knowledgeable person at your local garden center or nursery, you will have a wonderful looking lawn for all the work, time, and money you put into it. This is not the time to save a dollar unless you want to do this again in the near future. Good luck!

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Customised Gardening Tour of England

Tour includes the Wisley Gardens, the Chelsea Flower Show, Tower of London, Roman Baths & Pump Room, Riverford Organic Farm, Garden House, Rosemoor Gardens, Lost Garden of Heligan, Village of Megavissey, Stonehenge, the Wilton House Garden Centre and more.

Click here for details.

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.


This Week's Question:

The plant with the common name of "frangipani" is a tropical plant with lovely fragrant flowers, well-known in Hawaii. It is more commonly known by its botanical name in the mainland of the USA. What is that name?

This Week's Prize:
Garden Journal

  • 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.
  • See above for more information

Last Week's Question
An isopterpophobic person fears ________.

Last Week's Winner:
Sue Mouhtouris

Last Week's Answer:
Termites. (An understandable phobia, we think--especially for homeowners!)

Last Week's Prize:
Dramm Pistol Spray Gun

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!

Quick Garden Marinara Sauce and Basil Pasta

What you need:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh carrot, shredded
  • 1/3 cup fresh onion, shredded
  • 1/3 cup fresh zucchini, seeded and shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh green pepper, shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 6 cups shaped pasta (fusilli, campanella, gemelli or conchiglie), cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Step by Step:

  • Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add shredded carrot, onion, zucchini and green pepper; sauté until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add minced garlic; sauté for an additional 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
  • Add chopped tomatoes; cook until thoroughly heated (about 2-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  • Add cooked pasta and basil, cheese, salt and pepper; toss ingredients gently to combine.

Yield: 6 servings


Contact Information:

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(207) 985-6972
(800) 259-9231 (Sunday 6 AM to 10 AM)

(207) 985-6972

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

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Sunday: 10 AM to 6 PM

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