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

Mad about neonicotinoids!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 28, 2013 - 2:48 PM  As a beekeeper and a consumer of food, I’m appalled that neonicotinoids are allowed in this country!  Check out the article written today by fellow GreenGirl, Kim Palmer. 

Our honey bees and the work they do help feed this great nation we need to take better care of our environment before all the honey bees die off.

I understand the need to keep pests out of the greenhouse in order to sell plants affordably; but don’t do it with substances known to affect honey bees!  Europe has banned neonicotinoids before all the ‘studies’ were complete.  Perhaps Europeans have a better understanding of the connection between the food we eat and honey bees.

Pollination has become a big business in direct correlation to the big business of food.  Colony collapsing disorder has put a damper on pollination and for the first time, there was a bee shortage for the California almond crop. 

So here I sit, a small two-hive beekeeper in central Minnesota.  How am I helping save the world? Well,  I’m helping the forest in the two mile radius of my hives pollinate more trees.  I’m helping the hayfield across the way produce more clover so the cows that eat hay in the winter can enjoy more nutritious feed.  And I’m continuing my hives so maybe someday, those almond farmers in California will pay me billions and billions for pollination services.

What's a gardener to do after a hailstorm?

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 7, 2013 - 10:55 AM


It wasn't on my bucket list, but I now have firsthand experience with golf-ball-sized hail. I've seen and heard it crashing, held it in my hand -- and witnessed the carnage it can wreak in a garden.


I live in Eden Prairie, where the hail started hammering my house and landscape not long after I got home from work. My husband, who had just left to run an errand, called me with an urgent plea to get the other car into the garage.

I ran outside, ice balls painfully pelting my head and shoulders, and got the car under cover. Back inside, I watched my deck as ice balls and pellets piled up, turning the deck surface as white as a snowstorm. I could see my plants whipping in the wind and driving rain. Two containers blew completely over. 


After about 10 minutes, the icy onslaught subsided into softer rain, and I went out to inspect the damage. Wow! At least a dozen tomatoes, in various stages of ripening, were sheared off the plants, sometimes stalk and all. 


My giant black elephant ear -- my big splurge of the season -- had lost half its foliage, and what remained was punched so full of holes that the leaves looked like crocheted doilies. My canna were shredded to ribbons. My beets were submerged under a couple inches of standing water. (Apparently the drainage holes I had punched in that big pot were no match for the downpour.)

So much for homegrown tomatoes this year. There are only a few left on the plants, and they're pitted and pocked.

I'll still try to over-winter the elephant ear, but its days as the dramatic focal point of my outdoor "room" are over.


I haven't done a complete inventory of my back-yard garden yet, but I know it's not going to be pretty. 


What's a gardener to do after a hailstorm wipes out a growing season's worth of growth? 

Here's what plant experts have to say:

Trees and shrubs: These should probably be your first priority. Broken, dangling branches need to be cut off cleanly. Also remove limbs with severe gouges and tears. (Less-serious wounds will probably heal naturally).

Perennials: Damaged plants also need trimming. Unfortunately, the timing of this storm was not good for gardeners. Late-summer hail damage creates problems for plants because some will struggle to produce a new set of leaves, with limited success this late in the season. Damaged plants will be weakened and under stress, making them more susceptible to disease, pests and death. Plants that do sprount new leaves won't have time to harden off before fall, making them more vulnerable to winter kill. You can improve plants' chances by inspecting frequently for signs of pests or disease -- and treating problems promptly. Extra mulch can help protect damaged plants during the winter.

Vegetables: Remove damaged veggies and leaves. It's too late to try planting new tomatoes to replace ones you lost. Better luck next year. Root crops, such as radishes and beets, should survive as long as their tops aren't too badly damaged.

Annuals: These tend to recuperate quickly. Trim them back, fertilize them lightly and give them extra water for a days to promote new growth.

And next spring, when you're surveying those holes in your garden left by hail-damaged plants that died over the winter, consider replacing them with native plants. Because they've adapted to local growing conditions, they're better able to withstand being pelted with hail.

How did your garden hold up last night? 

Unexpected blooms

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 6, 2013 - 10:14 AM


I've been tending the same garden plot so long (17 years) that I know what to expect from it. Wild daisies will spring up in places I don't want them. Coralbells will die, no matter where I put them. And I'll have to pull a lot of thistles to keep it looking its best.


It's sort of like a long marriage. Yes, the object of your devotion has its irksome quirks and habits, but also brings comfort and beauty. There are few surprises, but every so often, my garden, like my husband, pops up with something new and unexpected.

This season's surprise in the garden was a ligularia's decision to bloom, after years of displaying only foliage. I have two kinds of ligularia, one with green leaves with serrated edges, and another with darker, glossier leaves with a smoother edge. I didn't expect flowers out of either variety when I first planted them about eight years ago. I didn't even know ligularia had flowers. I just liked their big foliage.


Then, a couple summers ago, the green-leafed plants started surprising me with blooms, in tall, spiky yellow clusters. I loved the height and color they added to the bed. They've bloomed reliably ever since.


The dark-leafed ligularia remained flower-free, which was fine. Then last week, an unfamiliar lump  appeared atop one stem. When I looked closer, I could see that it was the beginning of some kind of flower. Yesterday the new flowers revealed themselves. They're also yellow, but a richer, more golden hue, and the form is a little stubbier and more compact, with shorter petals.

I love that my garden can still surprise and delight me after all these years. How about you -- what surprises has your garden had up its sleeve?

"Ups" and "Downs" in the garden

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: July 17, 2013 - 9:03 AM

Gardens vacillate up and down, just like the weather. 


Sometimes you see a low humidity, 75 degree day – like these pretty patches of lilies. 





























Sometimes it’s not one, not two, but THREE bunnies nibbling at your bolted lettuce. 


That’s what happened in my garden this week.  What’s your hot and cold for the week?


How to prolong summer bloom time

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 11, 2013 - 8:14 AM

Most of us have a sweet spot in our garden season, that magic time when our gardens are at their best. For a friend of mine, it’s usually late June when her back yard is a lovely sea of roses. It’s a treasured moment around which she plans her outdoor entertaining schedule. For me, it’s that instant in time when the lilies burst forth, the clematis and delphinium are still putting on a show, and the weeds haven’t yet performed a complete eclipse of the stars. There are a host of supporting players in bloom now, too: astilbe, campanula, veronica, achillea, a few roses and some daylilies.

Then comes the rest of the summer, when the bloom bonanza is over, and I have to direct my gaze carefully to the few bright spots that remain and take solace in variegated or colored leaves. Even the coneflowers start to look faded, and sometimes it seems the only things in rampant bloom are the phlox and the annoying harebells I can never quite quell. (I’ve resorted to using the harebells as cut flowers after yanking them out for the weeds they really are, mixed with the ferns that have volunteered in unwelcome spots.)

I do my best to stretch the perennial flowering season. I keep flowering blooms well watered so they aren’t stressed. And few things spur my interest on a plant tag so much as the phrase “long bloom time” or “prolific repeat bloomer.” Be still my heart.

I’ve also tried to add more fall bloomers to keep the sedum Autumn Joy company. But even the New England asters, which are supposed to be my fall mainstays, have jumped the gun and started blooming, so I’m wondering how long they’ll be able to keep up the show.

One way to prolong summer bloom time is by deadheading. Not all plants will rebloom if you pinch off the spent blooms, but many will reward your efforts. And some plants like centaurea will enjoy a second wind if you cut them back. Here’s a handy guide:

The list of long-blooming perennials includes coneflowers, rudbeckia, daylilies, Veronica, scabiosa, coreopsis and Shasta daisies. Here’s a much longer list to pick from, many of which are zone hardy:

Possibly the best way to assure yourself of some late summer color is to keep your pots of annuals well watered, or pick up some hanging baskets in the late season sales.

What are your strategies for keeping summer blooms alive? What are your long-lasting mainstays?




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