1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Published

    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. 

  7. Published

    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.

  8. Published

    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).

  9. Published

    Not all the garden plants in my jungle are polite.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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. 

  15. 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 “

  16. 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. 

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.