Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Posts about Flowers

Plant freebies in July?

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: July 24, 2014 - 5:13 PM

By the end of July, it’s pretty clear which plants are greedy for more garden space. My midsummer garden is flush with too much growth. Masses of moneywort green tendrils have infiltrated the clumps of ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum.  Tall fringed loosestrife have infringed on the feathery foliage of astilbe. But the most nefarious plant is the sweet-looking buttercup primrose, which has vigorously multiplied and smothered everything in its path.

My garden is just too small for prolific perennials to run amok. So I’m continuiusly thinning and dividing, tossing the wandering plants with weeds and garden debris in the compost pile.

Local gardening groups organize scores of popular plant swaps, sales and giveaways in the spring. Why not at the end of July, too?

I wish I could share some of these healthy specimens with appreciative growers who still have holes to fill and don’t mind doing it when it’s hot and buggy.  And next spring, they'll reap the rewards.

What do you do with overzealous plants spreading across your garden? Does your neighborhood hold a midsummer plant swap?

Photos: Dave's Garden and Stepables

It's a party -- with pollinators!

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 21, 2014 - 10:25 AM

Walking along Franklin Avenue Friday after work, I was passing a tiny front-yard garden when something caught my eye. Bees, two big fat ones, were busily foraging among the coneflowers.

I paused to watch them in action, marveling at their ability to find the few flowers in an urban forest of concrete. 

Bees, their decline, and the important work they do to pollinate our food supply, are getting a lot of attention these days. If you're interested in learning more about how to protect bees, provide habitat or maybe even start keeping bees, head to Lyndale Park Gardens on Thursday evening. From 5 to 8 p.m., there will be a free " Pollinator Party" on the lawn near the Lake Harriet Peace Garden.

The event brings together scientists, educators and beekeepers, with opportunities to learn about everything from urban beekeeping to making your back yard more bee-friendly. But it's also a fun event to stop by and just hang out, with live music, activities for kids, food and beverages to purchase, and at dusk, a showing of the Disney movie "Wings of Life." 

For more information, visit: 

http://www.minneapolisparks.org/documents/activities/environmental/PollinatorParty2014Flyer.pdf

Endless winter vs. Endless Summer

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 14, 2014 - 11:04 AM

Now that it's midsummer, it's pretty clear what is and isn't going to deliver this growing season. Are some reliable blooms missing in action? Specifically, Endless Summers, the hardy hydrangeas? 

Apparently there are enough no-shows this year that Bailey Nurseries issued a press release last week. Chalk up another one to the Polar Vortex. The unusually harsh winter of 2013/14 resulted in many healthy-looking plants that have chosen not to bloom this year. They need a year of growing "in a vegetative state" to recover from the damage they suffered, according to Bailey.

You might think that Endless Summers planted near your house would have a more sheltered microclimate than those planted farther away. But actually the opposite is true, according to Bailey's release. Plants closer to houses were subjected to a more damaging freeze-thaw cycle. 

That's apparently the case at my house. I have five Endless Summers, all of which have bloomed reliably since I planted them several years ago. This year, the one closest to the house is big and green but with  nary a hint of a flower bud. The other four are blooming, although sporting fewer blooms than usual.

Is there anything we can do to coax flowers at this point? Probably not, according to Bailey. Resist the urge to fertilize, which just risks burning and damaging the roots. Just wait. And pray for a milder winter next year. 

If you have Endless Summer plants, are you seeing fewer blooms than usual this year?

Lilies take center stage

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: July 10, 2014 - 2:42 PM

Lily or not?
Many plants have “lily” in their name, but aren’t true lilies. Pick the real lily:
1. Daylily
2. Lily-of-the-valley
3. Asiatic lily
4. Calla lily

Lily fanatics will know the answer. Asiatic lilies are true lilies because they are members of the genus Lilium and have special characteristics such as scaly bulbs. The Tiger lily and Easter lily are also true lilies.

This graceful, easy-to-grow plant is hands-down the glam flower of the summer garden. What other perennial gives bursts of color (pure-white to deep red) from mid-June to August? And has super long stems, making it the Cadillac of cutting flowers? Ther's so many hybrids for gardeners to choose from - trumpet, oriental, martagon, Asiatic and Orienpet are the most popular.

This weekend, lilies will be adored, coveted and appreciated at the local North Star Lily Society’s show and convention from July 11-13 at the Hilton Airport/Mall of American Hotel in Bloomington. Lily Hall is free and open to the public with displays of hundreds of stems from Canada to southern U.S..There's also lily photographs, floral design ideas and lily vendors. See the latest hybrid seedlings developed by creative lily growers. Seminars, bus tour of area lily gardens, and other events are available for a fee; registration required. For more details, go to www.allstarlilies.org.

Are you a lily lover? Which ones are your faves?

Conquering bugaboo plants

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 8, 2014 - 9:40 AM

The maxim "If at first you don't suceed, try, try again" could just as well have been coined for gardeners. Each year is a chance to finally "get it right," to achieve our goals, big or small.

This year's nominee in the elusive success quest category: Hollyhocks. You know, those ubiquitous cottage garden plants that ringed every grandma's garage or stood at the back of the border just inside the picket fence. Seemingly everyone can grow them. Except me.

My on-and-off attempts to grow them date back to my very first gardening forays, when my mother let me have a few unclaimed patches of the yard and garden to try out some seeds. It was not a universal success, to say the least. The carnations fell victim to my zealous grandfather with a mower. The pumpkins grew really, really big, but crept lawlessly into the laneway to a field, where they got ruthlessly smashed by those enormous back wheels of a tractor. The hollyhock seedlings? They got a piece of machinery parked on top of them.

When I first got my own garden, I tried again, thinking a row of hollyhocks along the border by the garage would look peachy. But they looked more peaked than peachy, and no blooms materialized, and they didn't revive the following year. So I let a few more years go by and tried again, with no better results, despite the seemingly appropriate growing conditions. Hollyhock mallow, a free-spirited self-sower, is no problem to grow, but the spiky biennials, not so much for me.

I've had other bugaboo plants that I couldn't seem to grow over the years that I've finally managed to conquer. Delphinums eluded me, but for a few years now, mine have been proudly waving in the breeze at the back of the border, so I'm cautiously declaring success.

So after years of driving by abandoned farm houses where hollyhocks still stand stalwart, I thought it was time to try once more with one of my longest-running bugaboos. To give myself a leg up, I bought plants rather than starting from seed, which may be cheating, but you know who prospers. And I've got watering lines running past them to help keep the soil moist.So far they're at least growing; still waiting on flower buds.

How about you? Do you have bugaboo plants that you just can't seem to grow? Are there some you've mastered, and did you change your approach to get them to grow?

If this works, I might try carnations from seed again. But I don't think I'll ever have room for pumpkins.

The photo? That's clearly not from my garden, at least not yet. credit: Star Tribune file

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