1. 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

  2. Published

    Hellebores with their leathery palmate leaves add a much needed touch of green to the winter garden, but by spring the older leaves are starting to look rather rough around the edges, distracting from the floral display.  As soon as new growth begins to appear in late winter or early spring, hellebores can be trimmed to improve the plant’s overall appearance and reduce the incidence of botrytis blight through improved airflow.  The majority of older leaves can be found in a ring around the base of the plant like a ballerina’s tutu, whereas the new growth tends to grow straight up out of the

  3. Published

    Who doesn’t recognize a daffodil on sight, even with their myriad of forms and colors?  ‘February Silver’ is always the first to bloom in my jungle, and it never fails to elicit that thrill of excitement that spring is definitely on its way!  I drove by a motivational sign recently that read “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”  That could apply to so many activities, but for right now, I’m applying it to planting bulbs.  Every year I place my bulb orders early, because I know that if left to later, none would ever get planted.  By the end of the growing season, I

  4. Published

    Like this time last year, my jungle still has the look of winter sleep, but a few plants are starting to stir, some more than others.  As expected, the buds are swelling on Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) and my fragrant dawn viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’) has broken bud…more on that later.

  5. Published

    Ever notice how beautiful henbit and purple deadnettle bloom can be when viewed from afar, though much less so when viewed up close in your own garden?  Both are classified as winter annual weeds, meaning they complete their life cycle in one year, but instead of germinating in the early spring when your gardening reserves for weeding are at a high, they tend to germinate in late summer to early fall when you just want to be done with the gardening scene. 

  6. Published

    How we shop and buy plants is changing, so gardeners need to sharpen their ‘internet savvy’ skills to avoid disappointment when ordering plants online.  First, let’s talk about shipping.  Shipping costs may be the single largest impediment to buying plants online due to outright sticker shock.  Shipping can make up a significant portion of the order total.  The reality is potting mix is heavy and shipping is expensive.  Most nurseries are not large enough to offer free shipping, so it is passed on to you the buyer.  Most shippers like UPS, FedEx and the US postal system use what is termed “

  7. Published

    The first hard frost has snatched the lushness right out of my jungle, giving it the first real feel of autumn.  Leaves are continually drifting down like feathers to the ground, making the ground a mirror of colored leaves from whence they fell.  Some perennials appear almost unfazed while others look like a blow torch was in their midst. 

  8. Published

    It’s hard to believe that the first frost may be just around the corner, which means fall jungle cleanup is in operation.  I usually prioritize what needs to be done first by what would be most affected by freezing temperatures.  In my case, that’s plants.  For my “tender” potted plants, I begin by gathering them up from around the jungle and getting them closer to their winter storage area…the garage.  Just in case I get caught off guard, I like them close so they can be moved inside quickly.  But until that point, I’ll use the time to trim, fertilize and hopefully spray a few times with i

  9. Published

    Early signs of the coming fall had me screaming, literally!  Nocturnal orb-weaver spiders (commonly Neoscona crucifera and Aranus cavaticus) start showing up in late-summer to early-fall and have the habit of building their huge webs in the dark of night, then consuming them and their victims before daylight the next day.

  10. Published

    Just when my garden is fully deserving of its “jungle” moniker, I attend the 2019 Perennial Plant Association (PPA) National Symposium in Chicago.  Don’t get me wrong, I gained very valuable information throughout the program but the opportunities to bid on or just outright buy herbaceous perennials may not have been a good environment for a plant geek like me.  Let’s just say my car was completely full and the suitcases were an afterthought.

  11. Published

    The jungle is popping with early summer-blooming flowers, making cut flowers a quick and easy visual treat. I certainly understand some gardener's preference to just enjoy them on the plant, but for me, there is just a little added enjoyment creating a mixed vase of flowers from my own jungle.

  12. Published

    "Difficult to establish" can be an understatement for some plants. Over the years, I have out of necessity made a "three strikes, you're out" rule for how many times I allow myself to fail with a plant before accepting defeat. Globeflower (Trollius sp.) for example has a reputation for being difficult, but it is still one of my most regretful three strikes addition to "the dead list" because it has such a beautiful flower. Every time I see it in the nursery I still want it; but "the dead list" stays my hand. I just don't have the preferred sunny bog or pond edge to be successful.

  13. Published

    Bearded irises are blooming in the jungle and the arilbreds are leading the way. Arilbred iris hybrids are produced from crossing the finicky-to-grow aril irises with the more common and easy-to-grow bearded irises. They tend to have a touch of the exotic from their aril iris parentage, but the ease of cultivation from their tall bearded iris parentage. As previously implied, arilbreds bloom earlier than the tall bearded irises, more in time with the standard dwarf bearded irises and the intermediate bearded irises.

  14. Published

    The lawn art (with early flowering bulbs) project was a success. Last fall I planted a number of very early blooming bulbs in a sunny turf area, specifically dwarf iris (Iris reticulata), squill (Scilla sp.) and crocus (Crocus sp.). The iris were first to bloom in late February, followed closely by the other two species. And though the iris and crocus were readily visible even from a distance, the squill were too small and delicate to be easily detected…meaning they were easily stepped on.

  15. Published
    Over the years I have collected a number of planting media recipes, and each has its own characteristics and usefulness in the garden. Eliot Coleman, author of New Organic Grower, developed a blocking mix a number of years ago that is basically 3 parts peat for structure, 1 part perlite for aeration, 3 parts compost/garden soil, lime for pH correction and a base fertilizer for nutrient needs, which is made up of blood meal, rock phosphate and greensand. This mix works better than standard potting mix when making soil blocks (growing transplants without a pot).
  16. Published

    My jungle still has the look of winter sleep, but a few plants are starting to stir. As expected, the buds are swelling on Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) and fragrant dawn viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn'). Daffodils (Narcissus) and Italian arum (Arum italicum) are pushing, but unfortunately, so is the purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). After looking closely, I noticed the hellebore (Helleborus spp.) blooms developing close to the ground but looking a bit rough around the edges.

  17. Published

    Does unseasonably warm weather in the middle of winter cause woody perennials (trees and shrubs) to "wake up" too early? As with all things in nature, it all depends. Most trees from temperate climates require the accumulation of winter chill (500 and 1,500 chill hours) and subsequent heat during their dormant phase to resume growth and initiate flowering in the following spring. Chilling hours are the number of hours of exposure to about 45°F, and are measured from leaf drop in autumn until mid-February to early March.

  18. Published

    Many gardeners are trying to attract more native insects, both in number and diversity into their landscapes in an effort to collectively patchwork a healthier ecosystem. There is an increased number of research projects focused on plant-insect interactions, trying to determine whether natives have a home field advantage over non-natives or cultivars of native plants. Several studies suggest that wild bees prefer to forage on the nectar and pollen from native plants...though not exclusively, while some studies have shown no preference one way or the other.

  19. Published

    Fall-blooming plants like Chrysanthemum dendranthema 'Cambodian Queen' are a very important source of nectar and pollen late in the season, and on a pleasant sunny fall day can be like Grand Central Station in the insect world. Because there is not much in bloom this time of the year, flower-visiting insects tend to congregate on the few plants that are in bloom. Just casually glancing recently at this pretty pink perennial mum stopped me in my tracks for what turned out a very rewarding flower watch.

  20. Published

    The Missouri Botanical Garden has transformed an area of turf adjacent to the Lehmann Building into a space of wonder. Hundreds of thousands of flowering bulbs carpet the lawn in a succession of bloom from late winter well into fall, starting with dwarf iris and spring crocus, and ending with fall crocus (Colchicum spp.). Turf has never been that interesting to me but this technique was so transformative, I was encouraged to try it in my jungle this fall…though to a much smaller scale.