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.
After years of trying on and off, I've finally gotten at least this far with one of my bugaboo plants: The hollyhocks are blooming! That might not seem like much to crow about, but given my failed efforts over the years to grow this seemingly effortless plant that I've blogged about here, this is a major victory in the small world that is my garden. After a few weeks of seeing the stems crowded with buds, they've finally broken open.
What plant bugaboos have you overcome? Or are you wiser than me and just chalk it up to inappropriate conditions and move on?
If you plant them, they will come.
I'm talking about pollinators and the native plants that attract them and provide nectar and habitat.
The best thing in my inbox this morning was a short simple e-mail and two beautiful pictures. They were sent by Rich Erstad of St. Paul, a gardener I don't know, who just wanted to share the fluttering clouds of Monarch butterflies that started congegrating in his urban yard after he planted a cluster of native liatris.
It doesn't even have to be a cluster. Just a few plants can bring a noticeable increase in pollinator visits. Last summer, I planted one swamp milkweed plant in my garden. ONE! It quickly became a bee and butterfly magnet.
If you're heading to the State Fair this week, stop by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture booth in the Ag/Hort building. The department has launched a public awareness campaign to protect pollinating insects, and has developed best practices for homeowners and other land owners. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect pollinators and invite more of them into your landscape:
1. Plant more flowers in your yard or on your balcony.
2. Let early dandelions flower -- they have nectar.
3. Leave areas of your lawn un-mowed.
4. Reduce pesticide use.
5. Find pollinator protection information on pesticide labels.
6. Set out water bowls and birdbaths for pollinators to drink.
7. Let clover grow and flower.
8. Start a beehive.
What are you doing in your garden to make it more pollinator-friendly?
The Agriculture/Horticulture building is where you'll find beer - and fabulous flowers - at the Minnesota State Fair. If you’re heading there to taste brews made by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, make sure to swing by one of the State Fair flower shows scheduled throughout the fair's run.
It’s a place to escape and get a glimpse of quiet beauty after navigating sweaty crowds, munching on food that should never be on a stick and battling for a bench at the KARE11 barn. I’m especially partial to the orchid and dahlia shows and look forward to gazing at glorious specimens that were judged the best of the best.
This year the Minnesota State Horticultural Society planted an Adopt-A-Garden that’s decked out with waterfalls, two streams and a bubbler. This garden hasn’t thrown in the trowel yet -- it’s also packed with blooming perennials and annuals that will last through the fall. Take notes and photos on your smart phone to help plan next spring’s plant list.
Here’s the rundown:
Aug. 21-22: Cactus and succulents by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society and African violets by the African Violet Society of Minnesota.
Aug. 23-24: Gladiolus by the Minnesota Gladiolus Society.
Aug. 25-26: Minnesota State Fair Show - no idea what kind of plants are displayed.
Aug. 27-28: Floral designs by Federated Garden Clubs of Minnesota and Professional Designer of the Year Semi-finals by the Minnesota State Florist Association.
Aug. 29-30: Orchids by Orchid Society of Minnesota and bonsai by Minnesota Bonsai Society.
Aug. 31-Sept.1: Dahlias by Minnesota Dahlia Society.
The Ag/Hort building shows are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
What’s your must-stop flower show at the fair?
Gardens spring forth with high hopes, but by mid-August, the garden is what it is. It's time to savor the successes -- and write off what didn't pan out this year. Here's what's going on in my garden, the good, the bad and the ugly:
THE GOOD: We are now harvesting awesomely delicious tomatoes, plus as much basil and oregano as we can pick. Squash and peppers will soon be ripe and ready for the table. And my nasturtiums are still ablaze with tasty blooms for tossing in salads. I love the peppery kick of the flowers and the leaves.
On the ornamental front, one of my succulents surprised me by shooting off a long arm, which is now covered with hot-pink buds. I've never gotten a succulent to flower before. Cool!
THE BAD: What happened to the morning glories? I plant them every year, usually from seed, and I typically get like three flowers, and not until early October. This year, I bought plants at the garden center, figuring that would speed up the flowering. But I still haven't seen a single bloom -- just a few feeble bud-like nubs that dried up and fell off. What the heck?
THE UGLY: An intruder has discovered my awesomely delicious tomatoes. Every morning when I check the vines, there are two or three more tomatoes with giant gaping bites taken out of them. I suspect the bold chipmunk I often see darting around my deck. But we also have an army of squirrels snacking on maple seeds in the tree right above my tomato pots, so it could be one of them. I'm glad they're enjoying them -- we have enough to share.
What's good, bad or just-plain ugly in your garden, now that summer is winding down?
By the end of August, my garden looks like the dead zone.
It’s far from a colorful festive setting when I celebrate my son’s birthday right before Labor Day. Each year, I invite the family over for a party. Without fail - the green-thumb relatives head to the back yard or on the high deck to see what’s happening in the gardens. Without fail - they're disappointed.
The plants look like a birthday balloon that's slowing losing its helium after the party is over. Bee balm, black-eyed Susans and coneflowers are past their mid summer peak. The mass of phlox are spent and even the prolific moneywort has sprouted its last yellow flower. Thank God, the hydrangea bushes are still laden with plump petal balls. And the Autumn Joy sedum is just hitting its stride.
Sure, I could infuse bursts of vibrant color with garden variety annuals - petunias, impatiens and zinnias. But they never flourish in my mostly low, wet beds so they’re always relegated to patio pots. I’ve planted New England asters, but they took their sweet time and didn’t bloom until mid September - weeks after the party was over.
I’d like a garden the family will gush over - not take one glance and then head inside for chips and salsa. I''ve got to be strategic in timing my garden glory.
What perennials can I plant next spring - in sunny and partial shade areas - that will reliably deliver gorgeous foliage and color right before Labor Day?
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