Archive for October, 2011

Hello everyone,

Just a short reminder that the two scheduled W & L sessions for October will be held on this Saturday October 8, 9-11 am and Thursday October 20, 6-8 pm. Jennie will be overseeing the work on these two days while I am taking a leave of absence to finish up some projects before winter.

  • For tomorrow, I think we should concentrate on giving the beds a thorough weeding…particularly the ground cover beds.  There is the usual deadheading of the roses and some of the flowering shrubs in the north side native bed.  The barberry by the spruce needs trimming, as does the ground cover around it. The compost area needs some tidying up, particularly behind the bins.  The asparagus and some of that dead milkweed can also be cut back.  Pay particular attention to the clumps of bulbs, as most of these should be ready for cutting back.  The ground cover in the tree well near the knot gardens, looks poorly and should be cleaned up.  In the east side native shrub area, the rudbeckias need deadheading and the bed should be weeded before it is mulched.  Let Paul make the call which trees he wants to trim and the timeline.

The Deutzia in the hummingbird garden is now starting to throw out branches. If they are  long enough, maybe we can pin some of them in the ground and do some layering propagation.  Jennie can make a short presentation on how to do this easy to learn technique.

The Thursday night session will be a first for us and the blog, in that Sue will actually video Paul demonstrating lifting and dividing some peonies.  It is our plan to upload this short instructional video and add it to our growing archive of garden topics.  So…please do NOT cut back the peonies in the entry garden!


  •  Sunday October 9,  noon -5 pm.   Naida’s Milan Garden Club gardens will be on display at the upcoming Milan Fall Festival at the historic Hack House museum, 775 County Rd Milan.  Please show your appreciation for all the hard work Naida and her Milan crew have done around our exhibition gardens, by attending this event.
  • Wednesday October 12, 6-8 pm.  By popular request Linda Welch will be repeating her Vertical Gardening and Living Art presentation at the Riverside Learning Center, 77 N Roessler St Monroe.  $5 at the door…see blog for details.
  • Saturday October 15, noon-1 pm.  Following the general meeting, Georgeann will offer a class on Savory and Sweet Herbal Cooking…we should have a full house, so plan on coming early to reserve a seat.

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We didn’t have any member entries this week, so I decided to mix things up a bit. Usually we think of enjoying garden photography in vivid color. We commonly overlook the fact that many things such as tone, texture, and contrast may be shown better in black and white! Many cameras these days, even cell phone cameras, have a B&W option, or the ability to convert color photos to B&W. For even more options, inexpensive computer programs are available. Here are just a few examples. The dahlia and hibiscus flowers were shot in the demonstration gardens at our Extension office. The fern was taken awhile back at Hidden Lake Gardens.

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For anyone interested, I will be presenting a class on Vertical Gardening & Living Art, Wednesday October 12, 2011 from 6-8PM.  The class is through the Monroe Public Schools Community Education Programs.  It will be held at Riverside Early Learning Center, 77 N. Roessler St., Monroe, MI.  If you wish to attend there is a $5.00 registration fee.  You may register by Telephone at 734-265-4950, or in person weekdays between 9:00am-3:00pm at the same location.

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Osage Orange

Well, I’ve been introduced to a new tree this weekend.  I’ve never seen one before and didn’t know what it was when everyone in the campground said they have to go collecting “Sage Orange” for the trailers.  Evidently the seasonal campers tell me by setting these large fruits full of seeds around the trailer it keeps the mice and spiders out.  They swear by them.  They also have been using them in their basements to keep the spiders out.  So I took some photos to post.  I did a bit of research this morning when I came home as well.  It is an Osage Orange-Maclura pomifera, also know as a Hedge or Hedge Apple. .  In my research I find they are edible…but just the seeds are desired since there’s a slimy mucus like on the inner side.  Squirrels evidently love them.  The ones in my photos are still green, however I understand they turn a bit more yellow.  So upon the advice of my fellow campers we placed these in a bowl with some aluminum foil under them all around areas of the trailer.  We shall see…could it just be co-incidence or fact that the mice stay away?   Although some of the websites did confirm that there is a chemical in them that repels cockroaches and spiders.  Anyone out there know anything else about this tree?  My fear is that I come back to some rotted fruit in the Spring.

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I had a few photos left over from our last W & L session, so I thought it would be fun to make a compilation and see if you can identify them.  They are all from plants growing within the exhibition garden and this should be a snap for you older hands…or maybe not.

Jennie will be the authoritative source for the correct answers, which will be in MG form of botanical and common name…and species or variety if known.  You can make this as hard or as easy as you like. Print out the sheet and write in your answers for a self quiz.  If you like, keep the completed form as a reference.  To make it a little more interesting, there is a “trick” entry.  See if you can spot it.








Sue is posting another direct link to the University of Minnesota Yard & Garden newsletter in the Gardening Resources section.  This extension site has a couple of interesting features we hope you will enjoy and use on a regular basis to identify some of the things around your garden.  I would like to thank fellow MG Sharon Diefenthaler for telling me about this site.  The “What’s this plant”, “What’s this bug” features are very popular with her students when they are quizzed on what they found in the greenhouse that day.

Please post your answers as a comment…if you want to play and impress everyone with your plant knowledge.

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I knew something was up as soon as I turned into the parking lot last Monday night.  The air was filled with the aromas of freshly baked herbal bread right out of the oven.  The closer I got to the front door, the stronger the aromas of drying lavender, thyme, bergamot, mint and rosemary were competing with one another to draw me in.  I stopped and noticed something was odd about the potted bayleaf…somebody had given it a rather severe haircut and about one quarter of its leaves had been harvested to serve a higher purpose.

Sharon and Winnie with their herb garden

What I am talking about is the Herbs, Senses workshop Winnie Webb, Sharon Diefenthaler and Karen Morris were hosting in the conference room.  With myself on the door, this session drew 24 people which is a very impressive turnout when you consider the original MEN advertisement listed a local pizza parlor as the reservations phone number!

Aroma therapy 101

These ladies really outdid themselves with the vast array of plants and props they set up to transform our rather bland conference room into a haven of tranquility and some of the most deliciously soothing aromas I have ever experienced.  Each table had a fragrant herbal arrangement, the front presenters tables were groaning under pots of freshly dug rosemary, lavender, geraniums,  mints, oreganos, chives, parsley and cilantro.  The side tables were strewn with sachets, soaps, candles and an entire section from Franks arts and crafts.  The show stopper was one of Linda Welch’s vertical garden pieces planted with herbs…what a novel, space saving idea!

Vertical herb garden

Herb drying rack

The kitchen counter displayed the herbal breads, gooey lavender brownies, herbed hot buttered popcorn and a rather interesting Vernors punch with bergamot, honey, bruised mint and wafer thin dried lemon slices.

Assorted herb breads

Sharon and Winnie shared with everyone their experiences with herbs and how pleasantly mood altering and uplifting the aromas can be to our weary psyches. Karen was spritzing the arms of the unsuspecting with a lavender oil based concoction that smelled terrific, while Sharon was showing how the woody stems of rosemary could be used for kebabs and Winnie demonstrated some basic herb drying methods with a homemade wooden rack.  Karen and Sharon explained how to make spice bags, bouquet garnis and a tasty herb mix called “herbes de Provence”

Herbes de Provence

Rolling basil for freezer storage

Frozen herbsicles

Sharon told the group of her experiences visiting a special greenhouse that grows herbs and flowers organically as part of a patient rehabilitation program. I am also reminded of her own program with the ISD at Matthis’ greenhouse and how the kids all “fight” to work in the herb house when we are taking cuttings and transplanting.  This is positive effect of aroma therapy!!

The herbal products and ideas table

The presentation ended with Sharon and Winnie talking about how easy and inexpensive it is to incorporate herbs and their aromas into just about any household use.  As a guy, even I found that part interesting!

Good work ladies…your efforts were much appreciated. Everyone left full of herb bread and with an assortment of dried herbs, bags of bayleaves and sachets…and a greater appreciation of the benefits  herbs can have on our senses.

This workshop is actually an excellent lead in to Georgann’s upcoming Culinary Herbs presentation  on October 15,  after the general meeting.  Be sure to read the blog for details and some of the recipes that were covered in the workshop.

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I can’t believe it was a week ago last Thursday night we said goodbye to summer with a flurry of activity around the office gardens.  The turn out was again unexpectedly good…maybe it was Marlene’s oatmeal cookies or the excitement that builds after a long hot summer and the promise of cool crisp weather.  Thanks to all who turned up and our two presenters!


Marlene’s presentation on seed saving and plant overwintering storage was very informative and well received judging by the numerous questions.  Paul came armed with a brand new set of pruners in a holster and led us on a hunt for peonies that needed the “treatment”.  He recommended cutting back the white one by the sign as the leaves were beginning to get moldy, but decided to let the others go a little longer as they were quite green and still capable of storing sugars.  Naida and Jeff recommended that some copper Bordeaux mix be sprinkled on the cut stems to stop any fungus being drawn down into the bulbs.  These little tips are what make community gardening events like this so very interesting and informative.  Paul said he would revisit the peonies in a couple of weeks and show those who want some “offspring”, how to lift and divide the mother plants.

Veggie garden headstone

Alas, the bag garden came to a premature end with some tomatoes and a few jalapenos still hanging in.  We all had a good look at the remains of a parasitized hornworm…I wish we had a specimen jar available to preserve the remains.  Unfortunately the office camera had a weak battery so I missed getting a shot of this rather gruesome end of this voracious predator.

Black gold

The compost has all been sifted and rebagged…Jeff, Carol, Naida and Sandy made short work of this big chore with three wheelbarrows and extra screens. The rest of us clipped, weeded and cutback what was needed.  Unfortunately Mark had another engagement, so the weed whipping and grass seeding will have to wait until another session.

The garden is starting to get some late season color… the catnip is back in bloom and the yew hedge in front is sporting some nice red color, the roses are still going strong, even the rosa rugosa, and the white and purple dahlias are at their best.  Soon the mums will open up and the garden will have a fall feel.

Dahlia and tuteur

This was my last W & L as I am taking a leave of absence for the remainder of the season.  I wish to thank my dedicated crew of regulars, Naida and the Milan gang, Mark and Carol, Sue, Linda and Sandy in particular…without whose help during the hot summer months, this garden wouldn’t be in the good shape it is right now.  I am also very pleased to see so many new faces turn up at the last couple of meetings.  Jennie also deserves a particular mention for all of her behind the scenes help and guidance on what to do with this garden…a task that has strained our friendship on more than a few occasions!

Yew fall berries

Pebble garden


I know I am somewhat in the minority by thinking that maintaining  an exhibition/demo garden is essential to a viable MG program.  It is not a requirement, as Jennie often reminds me… but a  teaching tool that the coordinator may decide to use as part of the extension program.  Whatever your particular position is on this, the fact remains that a high visibility gardening club must garden in public if it is to be taken seriously, let alone fulfill its MG community outreach mission.



Ornamental Pepper

Hens and chicks

Let’s plan on business as usual until we hear otherwise.  In the meanwhile, keep gardening!


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It isn’t easy keeping a garden going in mid summer.  With no measurable rain to speak of, my  plants and lawns  really took a beating this year.  The only time I broke out the hose, was to do some deep watering on an as needed basis. But my garden was far from being on life support.   Plants do have a natural way of coping with these adverse conditions if you let them.  There is a surprising amount of moisture in the morning dew during mid to late summer, and the plants will tap this resource to stay alive.  I believe in deep mulching in order to conserve soil moisture and this has enabled me to keep a garden on a sand hill.

Drought stressed lawn on sandy ground leach bed

I have lived in some very arid areas and didn’t grow up with the tradition of a season long  green  lawn and bountiful annuals.  My landscapes in California were always drought resistant shrubs and shade trees.   The color came from borders of hardy gazanias, portulacas, vincas and other sun loving plants.  I am not suggesting xeriscape unless you want to do a variation of a southwest garden…but a little commonsense and an understanding of plant physiology will get you through these trying dry spells.

  •  TURF GRASS:   This is probably the most visible area of drought stress. You should ask yourself just how important it is to maintain that spring green, or you can become accepting of the summer stress and live with a brown lawn. The grass is not dead, but merely in a survival dormancy mode until the cooler temperatures and the regular rainfall pattern resumes.

Drought stressed lawn

Grasses need about 3/4 of an inch of water every three weeks to stay alive while dormant. You should try to avoid any heavy traffic over it while in this fragile state, or you will kill the grass.  Dr. Dean Krauskopf recommends applying the water ration in one application.  He cautions against random light sprinklings, as this will just cause the grass to break dormancy.  Unless you are prepared to water heavily from then on, the grass will be damaged if not killed.  Of course it helps to have planted the tall fescue type of grass and to have the mower set to at least 3″ high when coming into summer…and maintaining a good soil fertility.

  • VEGGIE GARDEN:  Here your method of growing will have the most effect on how you conserve moisture.  I have had a lot of success growing veggies in straw or a compost/straw mix for a variety of reasons.  I would recommend growing your veggies in some form of a heavily mulched bed, using a drip system for watering rather than overhead watering from a hose.  Not only will you avoid a lot of pathogen problems, but you will promote better root development by this method…and it will save you time and money by using less water.

Straw mulch and drip system

Tomato with mulch

Also pay attention to the particular growth stage of your plants.  For example, sweet corn that is in the ear filling (reproductive) stage will require extra water than when in the vegetative or leaf mode…if you want to harvest full juicy ears. The same applies for your root veggies, squashes and melons.

  • TOMATOES:   By far the most popular of our warm season vegetables, even these sun lovers can take a sudden turn for the worse in extremely hot weather. Tomatoes require daily watering if they are to be productive.  With a hose this should be in mid morning, taking care to avoid splashing wet soil onto the plants.

Tomato with blossom end rot

But be prepared for an interruption of fruit production when the average daytime temperatures are over 90 deg and the nighttime ones are over 70 deg. These plants will go into survival mode and do not set fruit as they attempt to control their sugar output.  Plant physiology once again is trying to weather the dry spell.

This is also true of the other solanaceous family relatives, the eggplant, pepper and potatoes…and even the distant relative, our showy petunia. Tomatoes need regular watering if they are already producing fruit to facilitate calcium uptake and avoid the common blossom end rot.  Take care not to overwater if the plants are coming out of drought stress, as you will leach out valuable nutrients including the all important calcium.  You can read more about this in some of MSUE’s vegetable tip sheets…just follow the resources links found in the blog index.

  • ANNUALS, POTS, HANGING BASKETS:   These are obviously the most vulnerable to heat stress.  Annual beds should be mulched to conserve moisture and watered frequently.  Pots and hanging baskets should be temporarily relocated to a less sunny position, preferably away from drying winds.  They should be watered at least twice daily if the containers are small.

Repotted drought damaged potted petunias

Also your choice of potting soil will play a big part in the overall well being of your container plants.  I gently try to repot or renew some of the light potting mix the nurseries use to grow the plant, with compost.  This medium  has superior water retention properties over its peat based cousins, as well as a good shot of valuable nutrients. I would not recommend using any foliar fertilizer during periods of extreme drought stress to avoid burning the foliage.  With pots I have found it better to use a quality pelletized fertilizer at planting to promote good root development, which will help the plant survive the summer heat.  Frequent applications of high nitrogen formulations will result in excessive leaf growth and impressive flowers, but at the cost of  increased watering during hot spells.

  • TREES AND SHRUBS:   Generally these will weather long dry spells as their root systems are larger and usually more developed.  This makes them able to more easily access the subsurface moisture that the more shallow rooted smaller plants cannot. The exceptions are of course, fresh transplants and young stock, which will require at least twice weekly watering or as needed during a prolonged dry spell.

Dehydrated evergreen

Drought stressed pine needles

Arborvitae with drought stress

Conifers, particularly arborvitae,  are susceptible to tip burn and browning in hot dry spells.  In this area, this is becoming quite prevalent as we are now in our second year of drought-like conditions.  Often these trees went into winter dormancy without adequate hydration and suffered some winter desiccation damage.  What you are seeing now is often the result of this cumulative drought damage.  It is very important to ensure these trees are well watered before going into winter dormancy.


As you can see much of this is just plain commonsense.  But it is often good to understand what makes your garden grow to avoid any of these problems. There is a wealth of information available online from reputable university extension sources to help you diagnose almost any problem in the garden.

Our blog has links to some from MSUE and a favorite Cornell site for veggie problems.  And of course you can always come and visit our office demo garden and see how we cope with an extremely dry spot year long, without sacrificing the variety of plantings of perennials or shrubs.

Frank Deutsch

Master Gardener 2010

Photographs courtesy of Jennie Stanger, except patio pot (mine) and blossom end rot tomato (MSUE)

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