|Edition 11.45||Paul Parent Garden Club News||November 10, 2011|
Bonide Mouse Magic
The leaves have begun to fall from our shrubs and trees and now those leaves are very colorful, but soon these colorful plants will look barren. For the next several months, our landscape will look drab with gray or brown tree trunks, branches and stems, but there are plants that actually look better when the foliage falls from the plant.
My favorite shrub is large-growing and will thrive in a moist to wet soil--even boggy. During the fall and early winter it will be the talk of your garden. Most of us know it as winterberry; we have seen it growing on the side of the road where water seems to collect, boggy areas where in the spring you can find pussy willows growing wild, and on the edge of ponds and lakes.
This plant--the winterberry--is in the Holly family and known as Ilex verticillata, just in case you go looking for it at your favorite nursery. The first thing you should know about this plant is that it will drop all its foliage during October; that is called a deciduous plant.
The beautiful holly plants we are accustomed to growing in our yard are evergreen, and we adore them for the beautiful dark green foliage as well as the fruit. This plant is hardier than many of our evergreens, as it will grow from Canada to South Carolina and tolerate winter temperatures to minus 30 to 40 degrees below zero. If you're looking for a plant to add to your landscape that will give your property a natural appearance and require no maintenance from you, this is your plant.
Winterberry will grow 6 to 8 feet tall and just as wide, but some of the new hybrids will stay smaller, without pruning, about 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. The plant will grow oval to round, with a dense growing habit of branches that are fine and twiggy looking. Branches are dark gray and smooth looking but, grow with an unruly appearance, twisting and turning in all directions.
The leaves are one and half to three inches long, oval and, unlike the evergreen varieties, has no sharp thorns on the edges of the leaf. The foliage is dark green, shiny and has visible lines or veins running through the top of the leaf. In the fall, the leaf changes to yellow-purple before falling from the plant.
In the spring, white flowers will develop on the new growth. These flowers are white, made up of five petals arranged in a circle with an indented center like a small trumpet. The flower is 1/4 inch wide and forms in a cluster, all around the stem of the plant, on the tip of the branches, before the leaves develop.
If you have grown holly before, you will know that unlike most plants, the holly needs male and female plants to make fruit; this is also true with this variety of holly. Only female plants make fruit, but both male and female plants make flowers and you need both to have fruit on your plants. Now the good news: all you need is one male for every 5 female plants to make berries in your garden, so purchase large female plants and smaller male plants for more fruit in your yard.
Choose a sunny location with fertile soil that is moist and acid. Plant with compost and fertilize every spring with Holly-Tone or Acid-Adoring fertilizer. The winterberry will look great all by itself but in groups or mass plantings it will be eye catching all fall and early winter. When the snow begins to fall, make sure there is a plant nearby so you can enjoy the red fruit that covers this plant when the ground is covered with white snow.
The birds love the 1/4 inch red fruit and will feast on them in February. It is not too late to plant now, as these plants are very hardy. Winterberry produces the same red berries you will see at your local garden center or nursery this winter, cut into bunches to be used to decorate for the Christmas holidays. Winterberry is truly a wonderful plant for all seasons--enjoy.
Have you ever wondered how plants get their names? Well, the Boston Fern got its name because it is a mutation of a tropical fern that was found growing in a parlor in Boston, Massachusetts around 1890 by a tropical plant grower from the South. A mutation is a new plant that develops with a different appearance from a known plant. This new plant is totally different; it has unique features, interesting characteristics, the growing requirements have changed and so has the appearance of this plant. Mutation is rare in nature, but this mutation made the fern a plant that could be grown inside your home--no longer a plant for a warm climate that grew outside only.
The Boston fern is a close relative of the sword fern that grows wild in southern Florida and tropical regions of the Pacific. It mutated from the Sword Fern, and today it is the most popular of all the ferns grown. What makes this plant unique is its ability to grow in a brightly lit window. Most other ferns prefer a shady location--even a dark location--to grow in your home but the Boston fern will survive in those conditions, just not thrive or grow very well; it needs light.
What I love best about the Boston fern is that it can be grown on your back porch for the summer months or on a shady patio. When the weather begins to get cold, it can be brought into your home for you to enjoy all winter long--and if you follow a few rules it will give your room a bit of tropical look.
If you have tried to overwinter or grow a Boston fern in your home for the winter and have had problems in the past, follow these easy steps for success. The main problem is when you bring them into your home they begin to shed their leaves and the dried up leaves fall to the floor, creating a mess. This is unacceptable but it can be avoided if you do the following.
Boston ferns require bright indirect light at all times. If you live in the northern part of the country, your fern will grow best in an east facing window with morning sunshine or a west facing window with late day sunshine. A south facing window even in the dead of winter is too bright and the direct sun will burn the foliage. If this is your only window, move the plant to one side or the other to create filtered light.
Boston ferns will not survive if you have a forced hot air heat in your home. This type of heat removes all the moisture from the air and the plants cannot survive in this climate. You cannot grow Boston ferns in a room that has a wood or coal burning stove for the same reason--the air is too dry. If you want a beautiful plant, you will have to mist the foliage every day; not just when you think of it, but every day.
A humidifier is the best way to keep the plant happy because it will apply the moisture to the air constantly, just as it was growing in the wild outside. A humidifier will also help your family sleep better during the winter, and your wood furniture is less likely to dry out and crack. Moisture in the air will benefit all your plants in your home, so keep the Boston fern in the same room as your humidifier. I also place my plant on top of a large saucer filled with stones. I fill the saucer to just below the bottom of the pot with water every morning and during the day that water evaporates creating a micro climate around the plant; but never let the pot sit in the water.
Now, temperature is also something that will affect the growth of the plant. Your Boston fern will do best with daytime temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees and 60 to 65 during the evening. If your plant is in a room that gets warmer than 70 degrees, place the plant on top of a table or on a plant stand rather than hanging it from the ceiling. Heat rises and the temperature near the ceiling could be as much as 10 degrees warmer than at waist high in the room.
All types of ferns love to be fertilized every 2 weeks all year long; lack of fertilizer will also cause yellowing of the foliage. Feed at half the recommended rate with something like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting plant food. If you forget to feed, as most of us do, use Osmocote pellet fertilizer; this is a wonderful slow-release plant food that will feed your plant for up to 3 months.
Watering is important and ferns need to be kept moist at all times but never sitting in a saucer of water. I put the plant in the sink once a week and give the plant a good watering and soak the foliage at the same time. This is also a good time to clean off any foliage that turns brown on the plant. Use warm water when watering your plant so not to chill the plant, and if your foliage is beginning to lose some of its shine it is usually caused by allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
When you purchase a Boston fern you will notice that the plant is growing in the center of the pot. As it matures, new foliage will develop closer to the edge of the pot and some of the older foliage in the center will begin to die off; this is natural.
In the spring, your fern will need to be re-potted. I usually examine the root ball first. Usually you will notice small plants developing up against the side of the pot in the root zone. On the top of the plant you will notice dead spots in the center with all the foliage developing from around the edges. If your plant is large and mature, cut the plant in half and repot into 2 new pots during March or April, and by summer you will have 2 plants that will thrive on your porch or patio during the summer. Feed with Osmocote fertilizer and watch the new plants quickly develop.
When you re-pot your plant, use a good potting soil and blend in 50% peat moss or compost to the mixture. If your new shoots growing around the side of the pot look good but the center is mostly dead, pull the new shoots from the root and dispose of the dead portions. Now plant the new shoots in a clump in the center of the pot and watch them quickly develop into a new healthy plant in just a few weeks...think division. Keep plants away from drafty doors that open and close often to prevent chilling, and away from heating ducts to prevent dehydration of the foliage when the heat turns on.
There are now several new varieties available of the Boston fern: The compact is my favorite. It grows to 18 inches wide and stays compact, not floppy, so it works well in a pot in a planter. Also nice is a variety called 'Fluffy Ruffles,' which is more upright growing, with stiff branches; also 18 inches tall and spreading. If you want a large growing plant that will cascade over the side of the pot look for the variety called 'Bostoniensis.'
Ferns are a bit of work but your efforts will be rewarded with a plant that brings the warmth of Florida into your winter home covered with snow. Enjoy.
It's November and the time to put your garden and the gardening equipment to bed for the season. Let's start with your equipment, because it's time to move it to the back of the garage or tool shed and prepare for the winter weather ahead of us. Power equipment like the rototiller, lawn mower, and your gas powered cutting tool should be cleaned, and then prepared for the winter by first filling up the gas tanks with a fuel that has been treated to prevent water buildup in the tank or fuel line. Start them up and let them run for a few minutes, so the treated fuel has a chance to move up into the engine. This little bit of maintenance will ensure a quick start up next spring.
I want you to purchase a can of WD-40 and spray all metal surfaces to prevent rusting from the dampness of the winter air. Be sure to coat all cutting surfaces extra well to keep your blades nice and sharp. This will also prevent moving parts from rusting together and keep the blades and wheels moving properly. If you have electric power tools, treat all metal surfaces the same way and coil up the power cords to keep them from being all tangled up in case you need them for the Holiday lights.
Equipment that you push like the wheelbarrow, fertilizer spreader, dollies, and even the hose reel should be washed and cleaned of debris. Spray WD-40 into all wheel sockets and treat any exposed metal to prevent rusting. Now is a great time to take a wire brush and clean your metal wheelbarrows, but instead of treating with WD-40 purchase a can of Rustoleum metal spray paint and paint the bowl of the wheelbarrow to keep it strong and rust free. With a cloth rub Linseed oil on the handles along with any wood pieces to keep them from drying out, splintering, and rotting during the winter, because handles have the most stress on them when used to move heavy loads. One last thing I want you to do is spray all your rubber tires with Pledge furniture polish to hold the moisture in the rubber and help prevent them from drying out and cracking.
Your fertilizer spreaders should be washed to remove fertilizer or lime dust that has built up on the moving parts and application ports. Let it air dry and then treat all moving parts with WD-40, especially the holes at the bottom of the spreader so they do not rust and become larger. If your holes get larger due to rust, you will be applying more product to the lawn than the bag calls for. When more product comes out it will cost you more money to teat that area and you may also burn the lawn with the extra fertilizer you applied. No one likes a lawn with stripes in it, plus if you over-feed your lawn it will grow faster and you will have to mow it more often.
Now for your hand tools and long handled tools. Clean them well and treat metal surfaces with WD-40 and wooden handles with linseed oil to help keep them strong. Last year I hung a 5 gallon bucket on the side of the tool shed and I now have a place to put all my hand tools, pruners and small gardening equipment--even gloves. I always know where to find them when I need them now. I also hate driving over them when mowing the grass, not very good for the tool--or the lawn mower blade. I did the same thing for all my watering tools and now I can always find the nozzle when I need it.
Drain your hoses of all water in them by throwing one end of the hose over a fence and pulling it to you as you coil it up in a neat roll. I then tie it in two places so it won't untangle, and it's ready if needed to wash road salt off the car during the winter; a frozen hose can be a real problem if you need it later. I hang it on the wall so I won't trip on it during the winter-- that also gives me more floor space for storage. Put the nozzle and the sprinklers in your bucket hanging on the side of the shed also.
I take all my granular or powdered fertilizers and insecticides and place them in a black plastic bag to help keep out moisture and place them on top of a bench so they stay loose, and don't turn into a solid block of product. Dampness from the floor will encourage your product to become solid and unusable in the spring. All liquids, especially pre-mixed products like Round-Up RTU, have a lot of water in the bottle, and they will freeze, affecting the performance of the product next year. Box them up and move them to your basement to prevent a decrease of the effectiveness of the products or breakage of the container causing a chemical spill--and real problems.
If you have a pump sprayer, remove the plunger and turn the sprayer upside down to keep moisture out and prevent corrosion. The rubber gasket around the plunger will go bad quickly because it is in contact with many products during the year, so every fall I coat it with a bit of Vaseline to keep it from drying out. Bottle sprayers used to control weeds on the lawn or apply insecticides on your plants should also be cleaned and opened to prevent corrosion in the mixing valves.
Bring in your garden statuary, clay, or ceramic pots, and gazing balls, also bird baths that are deep and hold a lot of water, because they will freeze and break. If you want to provide water for the birds purchase a bird bath that has a gradual slope and no lip on the bowl or it will break with the cold. If you have a large fountain, drain it of all water and cover it up with a piece of plastic sheeting. Now tape it together to prevent moisture from getting into the fountain and the wind from blowing it off. The pump should spend the winter in the tool shed.
If you're plowing or using a snow blower during the winter to remove snow on your driveway, now is the time to place stakes along the edge to help guide you and prevent damaging your lawn when it's covered with snow. After the snow storm we had last week, let's buy a couple bags of salt or sand and salt mix now so we are ready for the next storm. Do you have a snow shovel, wind shield scraper...how about a battery charger? If you're using gas during the winter months and storing it in gas cans, let's purchase a fuel treatment activator to keep that gas free of moisture. If you have a walkway with gardens near it, how about a salt free product to prevent damage to those plants.
Before you close up the tool shed for the winter, make a list of tools you will need to replace for next year's garden. Christmas is coming and this note will help Santa bring you what you need for next year. If you have had problems with rodents spending the winter in your shed, place a couple packets of Bonide Mouse Magic in the shed and close the door tight to keep them out and your equipment safe. I always add a couple of additional packets after Christmas just to be sure they stay out.
One last thing--before you close up the tool shed, buy a bag of potting soil and store it the shed just in case you need to re-pot one of your house plants during the winter or you want to start some early seedlings on your window sill. Lettuce or spinach will do quite well in pots during those long days of winter. Get to work this weekend while the weather is nice--you never know when the next big one will come.
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.
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.
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Step by Step:
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla; gradually add the oats.
Press into a greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.
Bake at 400°F for 12-14 minutes or until edges are brown.
Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, for topping, melt all chips and peanut butter in a microwave or saucepan.
Stir until blended; spread over warm bar mixture.
Cool completely; refrigerate for 2-3 hours before cutting.
Yield: 4 dozen bars
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