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

Slouching toward fall

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 15, 2014 - 10:22 AM

Fall doesn't begin officially until next Monday. But it's already starting to look and feel like fall in yards and gardens.

Maple trees are sporting a few flame-red flickers.

The tomatoes are tapering off after a flurry of ripening. There are only about a dozen still hanging on my scraggly vines, and the squirrels have beaten me to most of them.

Garden fatigue is setting in. A friend told me she usually quits watering her garden by early September, having lost interest in what little is left there. 

Me, I keep trying to preserve the last bits of garden goodness. My garden almost always has some late surprises up its sleeve.

Last week, the morning glory that I planted in May finally produced its first gorgeous flower. They're always slow to bloom in my garden, which has gotten too shady for morning glories. But they're worth the wait. 

I still have some late peppers and squash ripening, and I'm hoping they'll be ready to pick and eat before the frost hits.

And my cannas have a couple more clumps of buds that may or may not open into one last burst of autumnal bloom.

So I'll keep watering -- and savoring these last few days of "summer."

How about you? Have you lost interest in your garden, or will you keep nurturing it until the bitter end?

Time for tulips

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: September 4, 2014 - 2:56 PM

No disrespect to Cub - but I’m going to grow my own tulips.

The past few springs when I hosted Easter or Mother’s Day brunches - I just picked up bunches of purple, yellow and pink tulips from the market and plopped the stems in vases to decorate the tables.

But I’ve decided to hunt down my garden trowel, get down on my knees and finally learn how to plant tulip bulbs this fall so I'll be rewarded with a colorful spring show. I want to experience that end-of-winter miracle of tulip foliage emerging from the once frozen ground. And then shoot photos and post them on Facebook like everyone else. A bonus: I’ll have clusters of blooms for my table.

I’ve already done a little research on the University of Minnesota Extension Service site. Tulip bulbs are planted 8 inches deep, 6 inches part, pointy side up in well-drained soil. Since my challenging landscape is made of hard-as-rock non-draining clay - I’ll have the extra chore of amending the soil.

I may even check out one of Gertens “How to Plant Spring Bulbs” free workshops being offered at 1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 4. The workshop says something about critter proofing your bulbs. Great -  something else to worry about.

After I’ve emptied my spent planters in the composter and cut down dead perennials - I can start dreaming about my first-time tulips in all their Technicolor glory. But first, I have to get those bulbs in the ground by the beginning of October.

Do you have any tulip growing tips?  What are some of your favorites?  

Finally, hollyhock success

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: August 26, 2014 - 8:21 AM

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.

I can't declare total success just yet. It looks like some insect is going after the leaves of one of the plants, so I'll have to be vigilant. And I have yet to see if these biennials will make a return appearance and self sow.  But baby steps. I'll take it for what it's worth and savor the blooms and sense of satisfaction of getting another chip off my gardening shoulder. First delphiniums, then astilbe, now hollyhocks.Time to exorcise another demon next year.

What plant bugaboos have you overcome? Or are you wiser than me and just chalk it up to inappropriate conditions and move on?

Inviting pollinators into your yard

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 25, 2014 - 12:21 PM

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?

Beauty break at the Fair

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: August 21, 2014 - 3:48 PM

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?

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