Category Archives: General

May Day

It is ironic that May Day is an emergency word used internationally as a distress signal in radio communications that we have seen used in the movies. It is ironic, because the arrival of the first day of May is a celebration of flowers and spring. May Day was celebrated on May 1 by some early European settlers to North America with May baskets. These are baskets that were filled with flowers or treats and left at someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver; if caught, a kiss is exchanged. Good idea to wear your track shoes that day.
Today the arrival of May usually means the last frost days are passing and tender flowering plants can be enjoyed in our gardens and landscapes.

My Mom told me there would be “daisies” like this

Mother’s day is a weekend to give and receive flowers to celebrate both Mom and the promise of a new gardening season. Later in May as we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, plants and flowers play a big role in remembrance as well as our home gardening enjoyment.

Tropical plants like Hibiscus make a great Mother’s Day gift idea.

I read recently that “a weed is a flower with an advertising budget”. Today plant breeders have developed flowering plants for our landscapes that bloom longer, brighter and more reliably than the blooms enjoyed years ago. Dahlias, Pansies, Gerbera Daisies, Calibrachoa, Coleus and Petunias are great examples of how we have come a long way baby. Container gardening popularity has driven the development of reliable, continuous blooming and colorful plants that you can enjoy all summer long in your little corner of the world.
An easy container to design is a mono-culture container. Choose a single variety for your container along with an attractive container. Next mono-color combinations use two different shades of a color, but because you are using the same color you don’t have to worry about the colors clashing…they blend in shades.

The versatile colorful Gerbera Daisy

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel and mix together easily. These can be effective and very colorful combinations of pink and red, pink and orange (a favorite of mine) yellow and orange, orange and red, violet and red, blue and green, and blue-violet. My favorite approach is using complimentary colors. On a color wheel, complimentary colors are directly opposite of each other…like red and green, orange and blue, or yellow and violet. Finally you might want to try your hand at a three way combination color scheme.

Color Wheel

I call it a triple play, some people call it a triad. This combination uses 3 colors that are spaced equally on the color wheel – the points of a triangle. Examples would be a red-yellow-blue or violet-orange-green combination. Try a red-yellow-blue or pink-yellow-blue triangle combination.
Here are two quick pointers for your May Day combinations.

Colorful Crotons and other foliage plants add season long interest to plantings.

Remember that pink is a great color to include because it plays well with almost any color including orange and red. Also remember for best success plant your container working from the inside to the outside of the pot thinking “Focal, Filler, Edger, Trailer”.

Air out your “Green”-ance

Once the holidays are over I’m sure if I had to do it all over again I would over do it. So I’m grateful for a month like January where I can get grounded and renewed for the seasons ahead. Before you know it spring will be here. Winter is a good time to reflect and dream with new ideas for the warmer seasons to come, to think of changes in your personal landscape and environment. Being surrounded by healthy plants both indoors and out is known to improve our daily lives. To thumb through articles and look at pictures of landscapes, flowers and plants is a winter tradition. Maybe consider adding some foliage plants to our indoor rooms. Sprouting new ideas for our surroundings is therapeutic. I read the other day that new ideas are just like babies….messy, confused but full of possibilities! January is a month for what I call “wet cement” ideas….some dreaming for possibilities are formed but not yet written in stone. Maybe some seed catalogs will plant a seed in your imagination. Imagine some change in your surroundings and landscape and dare to dream for this year!
If you are looking to add some living plants to your home and office but don’t have a “green thumb” you may want to consider Tillandisia.

Tillandsia and moss in glass globe

Tillandsia and moss in glass globe

Tillandsias are what some would call “air plants” and what is more readily available than air? This plant is a great way to air out your “Green”-ances. Tillandisias are low maintenance plants that only require some water. Most varieties do fine with a weekly misting or take it in the shower with you.

Tillandsia

Tillandsia

Larger plants should be dunked into water in a sink for 10 or 15 minutes a week. Bright light, but not necessarily direct sunlight is recommended, which will produce some color in the plant. After soaking the plant drain the water out of crevices. Tillandsia will also at times produce a bloom that will flower. They also produce pups or “babies” that create a whole other plant.
When using Tillandsias for terrariums or art projects they cannot be used with potting soil or dirt (they are airplants). You can use sand, rocks, pebbles or bark chips. You can also creatively mount the plants on a wire frame, or glue them with a Tillandsia adhesive on wood such as a favorite piece of driftwood.

Tillandsias make good companions for office, kitchen, bathroom

Tillandsias make good companions for office, kitchen, bathroom

There is a plant for any season and any place, even in the dead of winter. A friend told me recently that plants aren’t that hard, you just have to think like a plant. And they make great friends during the long winter days indoors.

Water means Life

Accessible clean water is vital for both us and our plants. We often take it for granted where we live. In other parts of the world however that is not the case. Finding usable water becomes a matter of life or death and is a daily struggle.
Like all living things, plants can get by without food for much longer than they can without water. In fact, 80 to 95 percent of a plant is made up of water, which it uses to replace water lost to evaporation and to assist with photosynthesis. Water affects a plants growth, its resistance to insects and disease and its overall vigor. Proper watering is essential if you want your plants to thrive. Because the plant transpires around 97 percent of the water it absorbs, its main task is to maintain the internal water flow or pressure so that the plant may remain stable and sufficiently supplied.

Water means life

Water means life

Water is life and here in West Michigan we are fresh water rich. Some children in our world suffer due to lack of clean water and we can make a difference. We are reminded again with the humanitarian crisis in Syria that thousands of children suffer and die every week. It seems to me governments can unite to solve a banking crisis but in times of humanitarian need it is people who unite with outstanding humanitarian agencies like World Vision to make a difference.

Once again I’m running with Team World Vision to raise awareness and to help provide clean water for those in need. The needs are real, but we believe that we can end the clean water crisis in our lifetime.

Running with Team World Vision to raise awareness

Running with Team World Vision to raise awareness

$50 = clean water for 1 person for life.

Will you invest in the future and provide clean water for 1, 2, 3, or even more people? We can help change lives, together.

Here is the link below to make a donation that will change lives. Please click on it…….

http://www.teamworldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=11190

Thanks for your support!

Plant One On Me

A libation and some fresh flowers might make her swoon, at least the flowers will love it as proven in research. The Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University found some Gin or other 40% distilled spirit in 1 part booze to 7 parts water while growing Paperwhite Narcissus helped keep them from being “floppy” while being “floriforus”. Paperwhite Narcissus are an easy to grow indoor winter flower that might brighten your spirits. Now there’s a colorful potation to warm a winter evening.

Paperwhites for forcing indoors

Paperwhites for forcing indoors

In March it will be kiss me I’m “Iris” but in February almost any kind of flower is “scent”-uous. Valentine’s Day in mid February as winter drags on is the perfect time to plant one on her with the scents of flowers and foliage we all miss since the close of summer and autumn. A gift of flowers is sure make life more colorful at least for a day or evening or two.
My friend J Schwanke author of ‘Fun with Flowers’ tells me that in surveys done for the fresh flower industry, men gravitate towards red roses but women prefer peach, pink or orange roses. What do you think ladies? Let me know at thankyouverymulch.com. J is a frequent guest on my radio show and known nationally as a motivational florist. You can find him on ubloom.com.

My friend J Schwanke on the Flowerland show

My friend J Schwanke on the Flowerland show

I agree with him that a sweet personal hand written note with the flowers is a must and believe taking the time to make a personal selection and local purchase from a florist for Valentine’s Day is great way to use your “tulips” guys to say I love you.
Fresh cut flowers in an arrangement need fresh water so if you’re gifted with some make sure to change out the water in your fresh flower vase and make sure the stems have a fresh diagonal cut on the bottom to draw water like a straw. Water is essential to life and your beautiful fresh flowers are no exception. Keep them out of a direct sunlit window and away from a heat register to keep them beautiful for as long as possible. Packets of fresh flower “food” powders are also available from your local florist with your arrangement. May the “florist” be with you.

“Snow”-vember

November is the time to put the yard to bed for a long winter’s nap and prepare for the holidays ahead. During the growing season, branches in our yards extend their leaves like hands to catch the light. Now that the work of the chloroplasts fed by sun, water, nutrients and carbon dioxide is done for a season, the spent leaves carpet the earth’s floor. Their work done, their season in the sun gives way to the dead of winter and branching hope for renewal in a next generation of leaves the following spring season. Having moved amassed sugars and carbohydrates from their manufacturing “plant” to the roots for storage, a healthy plant, in essence, saves for a rainy day. Technically if allowed to do so, the spent leaf does find a second calling as a beneficial compostable soil amendment when worked into the soil or compost pile. It is the circle of life or circle of “leaf” and natural renewal. Why not use the leaves for some composting benefit as a reward because like Neil Sedaka used to sing, “raking” up is hard to do (or something like that). The process of going into dormancy as we head into November is inevitable and non-reversible. Fall then winter is going to happen. Fortunately once dormant, dormancy is a reversible stage but we’ll “leaf” that thought and process for another article closer to spring.

Fraser Fir growing on Christmas tree hill

Fraser Fir growing on Christmas tree hill

It is the process of the growing season ending and inevitable dormancy that I believe make the aroma, the feel, the sight of evergreen branches such a welcome addition to our homes during the Christmas season. The sweet smell of Douglas Fir, the prickly personality of Spruce, the distinctive aroma of Fraser Fir or the comfortable presence of Pine makes you feel at home. You may want to keep some potting soil thawed out to use in porch or front step containers when evergreen boughs are available. One of my favorite November activities is to prune materials from the landscape and add them to evergreen boughs for a welcome arrangement at your front door.

"Spruce up" by pruning boughs from evergreens to make porch pots

“Spruce up” by pruning boughs from evergreens to make porch pots

Use the thawed soil in your containers when you’ve collected your harvest and combine with evergreen branches pressed into the soil. The moisture in the soil will soon freeze holding the arrangement in place for the holiday season. Landscape plants like red and gold twigged Dogwood or Ninebark provide wonderful colorful branches for your arrangement. Foliage and blooms from spent perennials like Ornamental Grasses, Sedum and Agastache or spent flowers of Hydrangea provide dried plumage and flowers for your arrangement. Berries from Holly, Viburnum or Rose Hips provide the color to play against the evergreen backdrop. Look around and be creative, you’ll be surprised how much there is to choose from. Just make sure to check with your neighbors and get their permission before snipping to keep everyone’s spirits bright.
Evergreens are not always ever green. You may notice a large amount of yellow needles during November at the base of your White Pine for example. An evergreen tree will carry a few years worth of needles but shed the third year’s needles as an example. These are the needles you find at the base of the tree and make a great collectible mulch to use at the base of your Rhododendrons, Hollies and Azaleas. Pine mulch is much more popular in certain parts of the country than it is in West Michigan but aside from aesthetics has a functional purpose. Broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons can also lose their green color in winter due to another reason….desiccation. November is the time to act by spraying desirable broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons, Boxwood, Azaleas or Hollies with anti-transpirant spray derived from the resin of Pine trees. Products like Wilt-Stop form a soft, clear, flexible film on treated plants, protecting them from moisture loss. Because evergreens retain their foliage in winter, they continue to transpire moisture loss. If the ground is frozen and the plant does not have ability to draw water from the roots, a plant can desiccate and die from exposure to wind and winter sun. You can also use a product like Wilt Stop on your Christmas greens. I have used it for years on my evergreen roping with great results. Boughs, wreaths, Christmas greenery and even your Christmas tree can have extended life from the use of an anti-tranpirant. This allows you to put up greens in November on a reasonable weather day with confidence they’ll last until Christmas. I like to joke that I’ve even used the pine resin in my hair for long lasting hold on a windy November day. Don’t do as I do because it is not recommended on the label and it makes your hair stiff as a board even though it is a natural non-toxic product.
Speaking of green, the last mowing of the lawn usually takes place in November too. During the growing season I recommend raising the deck on the lawn mower for a naturally healthy and weed resistant lawn. With the arrival of November we lower the deck and cut the grass shorter than we do during the summer months. This is done for a couple of reasons. First we want to avoid vole damage to our lawns by eliminating hiding areas and long grass. Voles are “mouse-like” creatures that can do a number on our turf, operating under the cover of snow hidden from natural predators. In addition longer grass blades will lay flat under the cover of snow matting the turf and increasing the probability of snow mold issues come spring.
You can usually find some deals on spring flowering bulbs like Tulips or Daffodils in November. You can successfully plant them in November for spring color. I’ve been known to plant them in December picking through frost crusted soil to do so with success. Maybe it’s the Dutch in my blood but I highly

Force bulbs indoors

Force bulbs indoors

recommend it. Sure beats the alternative of shoveling snow. You can also take these bulbs and “force” them into bloom by potting them up and putting them into cold storage (40 to 45 degrees) for 12 to 16 weeks and treat yourself to some late winter and early spring color indoors.
No need to slow down enjoyment in your landscape in November. It’s “Hoe, Hoe, Hoe” the holidays are here!