1. Published

    One of my many pleasures from gardening is watching the garden develop and change over the course of a season. It never ceases to amaze me how stark, yet beautiful the landscape is in its winter rest. With the leaves gone, the beautiful bark and limb structure of the trees and shrubs is completely exposed, becoming the garden’s prominent feature. All else is a study in brown aside from an occasional splash of green from the various evergreens.

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    The impact of nature upon our well-being is truly amazing. The morning before Thanksgiving, I stepped outside to walk the dog and was met by the most glorious sky. Immediately I thought of the old saying “pink sky in morning, sailor’s warning,” but I shrugged that off immediately because I already knew rain was not in the forecast and Mother Nature was just showing off. As I continued to walk, enjoying the dog frisking in the breeze and the unusual light, a rafter of nine turkeys strolled out of the nearby woods to make the morning all the more beautiful.

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  4. Published

    Hard to believe but the median date for the first frost is just around the corner, and I still have lots to do in the garden.

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    I’m pretty sure I know where writers get a lot of their ideas for monster movies…from the insect world.

  6. Published

    This is the second time of the year when the jungle needs the most weeding…the first being early spring. But unlike spring, it’s now hot and the mosquitoes are in abundance, not to mention the humidity makes the simplest task a chore. The weeding needs to continue though or the undesirables will reign supreme. So on really hot days, in addition to my normal insulated water bottle, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, gloves, weed prong, hand pruners, basket and iTunes, I have added a 100’ outdoor extension cord and a 20” industrial floor fan.

  7. Published

    Past mistakes seem to come back and bite you. When I started planting my garden nearly 19 years ago, I didn’t think to keep a master list of my plants mainly because I didn’t know then how much I would come to rely on it for accurately identified photo images. For the first five years, I just labeled my plants with a handheld label maker, with no connection to a database. Then I finally wised-up and started logging my plants in an Excel file and printing labels with a label maker that could print from a merge file.

  8. Published

    I often have people tell me they don’t grow iris because the bloom just doesn’t last long enough. Since I have had a lifelong affair with iris, my jungle includes quite a collection of iris and they do have a rather short window. Regardless, I decided long ago I preferred to savor their ephemeral beautiful rather than foregoing them all together. With that in mind though, I have to work all the harder to balance a sea of green swords after the blooms have all faded...another good reason to acquire more plants!

  9. Published

    It’s not until their dainty little blooms appear that I can more easily differentiate a patch of Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucularia) from a patch of squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis). The flowers of Dutchman’s breeches are often described as looking like “a pair of white pants hanging by their legs on a clothesline”…but to me, they look like upside down, yellow-waisted M.C Hammer parachute pants. And when the wind makes them dance, even more so. Squirrel corn looks like traditional little white hearts, oftentimes touched by pink.

  10. Published

    My pink dawn viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’) took a hit this past February when low temperatures dropped to minus zero for several days, just as it was budding out. I thought for sure all the blooms were toast, but upon inspection, I see some surviving petals still making a show. That isn’t to say the reproductive components of the surviving flowers weren’t damaged, so time will tell whether berries are in the making for this year…but at the very least there won’t be as many.

  11. Published

    Winter may still be with us, but preparation for spring is starting to move into high gear for me in terms of garden activities. One thing recently crossed off my February “to-do” list was seeding transplants of very hardy vegetables and herbs like broccoli and parsley. Seeding the first week of February gives me enough time to grow good-sized transplants for planting in their preferred window of 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost. How did I arrive at the first week of February as my transplant seeding date?

  12. Published

    When it’s below freezing outside, I have the option of just coming inside where it’s warm. Plants on the other hand can’t, so instead have evolved amazing adaptations over millennia to survive prolonged sub-freezing temperatures. Plants definitely differ in how much cold they can take, so ratings based on the USDA cold hardiness zone map are a good resource to avoid planting a species that won’t survive the winter.

  13. Published

    Recently I noticed some of my winter-blooming hellebores (Helleborus spp.) are already adorned with flower buds, which is about a month early for my garden site.  I don’t think I have ever had a “Christmas Rose” in bloom by Christmas?  If Mother Nature doesn’t freeze them out, a winter bouquet may just be in my future.

  14. Published

    What comes to mind when you think of your garden or the landscape in the fall? Not including all the work gardeners do in preparation for the coming winter, sit back and just meditate on all the things you associate with fall. My list was amazingly long and looking at it as a whole, it brought a rather peaceful happiness to me. Leaves played a very big part in my association with fall, as I expect the same will be true for others.

  15. Published

    It’s that time of year when eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) start dropping older needles, resulting in a new layer of sound-cancelling padding under trees. The sight of so many browning needles can be alarming though if you are not wise to the true meaning of evergreen. In general, evergreen refers to plants whose leaves (broadleaf, needle-like, scale-like or awl-like) last more than one year before falling. Deciduous plants on the other hand drop all of their leaves, leaving the plant completely devoid of leaves for part of the year.

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    Hard to believe it’s just four weeks out from the St Louis area’s first median frost date (~October 10), so prepping outdoor perennial container plants for over-wintering has moved higher up on my priority to-do list.  Some are hardy perennials that I just planted in large containers with the intention transplanting them in the garden late summer, leaving enough time to become established before freezing temperatures arrive. 

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    I really can’t say enough bad things about mulberryweed, a.k.a. hairy crabweed (Fatoua villosa). For me, it has been a weed nightmare that come in on a load of mulch about 10 years ago, and every year since has been a battle to control because I didn’t recognize it for what it was and take action soon enough. Hand weeding or chemical control needs to be done immediately upon detection, and this can’t be stressed enough.

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    There are just some native plants you just don’t want to cultivate near well-traveled paths, and most especially if you have a dog. I ’m talking about native plants that have developed a seed dispersal method that involves hitching a ride on any animal passing by. Just a few that I regularly encounter include begger-ticks (Bidens sp.), sandbur (Cenchrus longispinus), stick-tight (Desmodium sp.), snakeroots (Sanicula sp.) and stickseed (Hackelia virgiianum).

  19. Published

    Not all the garden plants in my jungle are polite.

  20. Published

    When you have a lot of any one thing, it’s sometimes hard to choose a single favorite, but in the case of tall bearded iris, ‘Edenite’ is the one I most look forward to every season.  Described as sooty red-black with brown beards, this historical 1958 release is still a crowd pleaser.  Unfortunately, it has been blooming rather infrequently the last few years due to shade development since its planting.  The rhizomes keep growing and the patch keeps getting larger, but no blooms.  Given that iris require six to eight hours of full sun during the growing season for best performance, some of