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”.

Falling in Love

How often do I hear people say “I just love the fall season.” There is so much to love about October in the garden. From pumpkins and gourds to fall foliage color and crisp refreshing air we fall in love with time outdoors. Aside from being a beautiful time of the year, it is also the perfect time of the year to rejuvenate or establish your landscape. Let me count the ways oh October how I love you. In the words of Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…..10 to be exact why October is a kick in the plants out in the garden.

When Chlorophyll production breaks down in the leaves the other pigments get their chance to shine!
When Chlorophyll production breaks down in the leaves the other pigments get their chance to shine!

1) Plants put in the ground in October focus on establishment; the soil is warm for roots while the air temperature cools reducing stress.
2) Bulbs! Plant Tulips, Daffodils, Alliums, Hyacinths, Crocus and more now for spring color.
3) Mum’s the word. Chrysanthemums provide vibrant color and come back year after year. Give Asters a try too; today’s new varieties are reliable bloomers!
4) Weed control is effective in fall. Weeds just like the trees are moving food reserves into their root systems for winter so herbicide sprays are more effective when applied in fall. Weed control will also knock out winter annual weeds now so they don’t appear in spring.
5) Fall annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale are frost tolerant and provide color well into November.
6) Lawns like plants focus on root establishment in fall because of the warm soil and cool air temperatures. Feed your lawn and overseed and it will reward you next spring with thick lush healthy growth. Consider core aeration in fall especially if your soil is clay-like in nature.
7) Shrubs and Trees establish well in fall, again the roots will establish in the soil without energy put into top growth. Fall planted landscape plants establish quicker the following year than spring planted material.
8) Exercise your green thumb as in dollar savings! Deals are generally available in fall to save you money.
9) Money grows on trees. Leaves have natural nutrients and organic structure to improve the tilth of your soil….and they’re free!
10) Maintain your “composture”. Start a compost pile for your garden next year, no time like the present and October is a great time to start!

Money grows on trees!

Oh my “raking” back as some would say when faced with the prospect of clearing leaves from their yard. “Maple” I can help you. Did you know money grows on trees? It’s not a “figleaf” of my imagination. Money does grow on trees and it happens in a couple ways during the fall season.

"Maple" I can help you?
“Maple” I can help you?

The first is when the less dominant pigments in the foliage are unmasked by the loss of chlorophyll. As Billy Madison would say “Chlorophyll more like Boreophyll” but not really. The fascinating “accessory” pigments to the fragile energy producing dominant pigment chlorophyll wait their turn to take the stage. They account for only 1/3 of the amount that chlorophyll is present in a typical leaf, but they pack a punch. The accessory pigments Carotenoids (yellow to orange), Anthocyanin (red, pink, purple) and Xanthophyll/Tannins (tan to rust to brown) produce the fireworks in the fall. All season they played second fiddle to chlorophyll protecting the fragile Mr. C so to speak as suntan lotion from overexposure. When the growing season ends and winter approaches the chlorophyll’s work is done and it’s time to accessorize and go out on the town. The money part comes in when people like you and I take a drive to see the show. The brilliant fall colors are an important boon to tourism and support the economy of our communities in a “tree”-mendous way.

Carotenoid pigments create the banana yellow color in fall tree leaves
Carotenoid pigments create the banana yellow color in fall tree leaves

The second way money grows on trees is of direct benefit to you personally. You can have a green thumb by keeping more of your currency in your hands. You do this by using the nutrient value of a free sustainable resource (leaves) in your yard. Using the leaves in your garden adds organic matter (think earthworms), improves soil tilth and improves water holding capacity. But the big advantage, and here’s where the money part comes in, is the nutrients! Think about it… leaf senescence takes place valuable nutrients are being removed from the leaf transported into the tree for storage before being abscised from the tree. Not all the nutrients make it out before they fall. If you shred these leaves to speed breakdown or mulch them into fine pieces into your lawn it is a free slow release fertilizer!

"Raking" up is hard to why not instead harvest and harness the benefits of fallen foliage?
“Raking” up is hard to do….so why not instead harvest and harness the benefits of fallen foliage?

Leaves require microbial decomposition to release their nutrients which is a fancy way to say slow release fertilizer. I’m just “tilling” it like it is people! I was reading a recent study that analyzed the nutrients and chemicals in leaves from 100 municipal leaf samples. This study found that in 20 tons of leaves there is 400 pounds of nitrogen, 40 pounds of phosphorus and 152 pounds of potassium…..the big 3 NPK. There also was plenty of the minor nutrients like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, iron, manganese, copper and zinc to go around. The nutrients from this example well exceeded $150.00 in value on the market. Like I said, free organic renewable slow release fertilizer. So money does grow on trees! What are you waiting for? Let’s travel at the speed of “ground” and may the “forest” be with you. Bon “foliage” my friends!

Don't be bush league! Use the slow release free fertilizer at your feet to improve your garden!
Don’t be bush league! Use the slow release free fertilizer at your feet to improve your garden!

I Beg Your Garden?
I love the month of October. Anticipation seems to hang in the air as the environment changes from day to day. Colorful sights and crisp cool air as we celebrate the culmination of the fall season and anticipate the next. From frost on the pumpkins to the aroma of apple cider to the brilliant display of fall colors what’s not to love about October? Let’s get to work. I beg your “garden”? Well I don’t view it as work but some efforts in your yard during October can reap a harvest of rewards. Aside from the exercise and fresh air you’ll get, October is a great month to improve your outdoor living space.

The beautiful fall color of Fothergilla
The beautiful fall color of Fothergilla

Frost tolerant Pansies can add an instant splash of color to spaces in your outdoor living area. They tolerate October frosts with colorful blooms. Plant breeders have developed both solid color and “faced” pansies with the classic pansy look in a dazzling array of color choices. You really don’t have an excuse to plant some pansies.
Pansies are colorful tough dudes
Pansies are colorful tough dudes
I beg your “garden”? Whether you have a small space or large, pansies are adaptable, easy to plant and as an added bonus are the gift that keeps giving. Frost tolerant tough pansies planted for fall color will hibernate under the cover of snow and return next spring to provide welcome color for winter weary people. This year with the cooler spring and summer temperatures we’ve experienced, I’ve continued to enjoy the pansies I planted last fall. A great way to enjoy them is to plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips or daffodils first. After planting fill the trench or hole and plant pansies over the top. The pansies provide beautiful fall color now and the bulbs will grow through the reblooming pansies next spring.
Tulips growing through pansies planted last fall and reblooming in the spring
Tulips growing through pansies planted last fall and reblooming in the spring

Asters, Chrysanthemums, and Swiss Chard also provide instant color and with a little mulch protection should reappear in spring. You should also plan or “plant” for the future in addition to adding instant color. I beg your “garden”? Fall planted bulbs like Tulips, Daffodils, Dutch Iris, Crocus, Alliums, Scilla, and more are so easy to plant, as easy as dig, drop, done. An investment in these bulbous orbs of promise now will reward you with a colorful surprise next spring.
Spring flowering bulbs like crocus planted in fall make the landscape come alive in spring
Spring flowering bulbs like crocus planted in fall make the landscape come alive in spring
In addition landscape plants like shrubs, trees or perennials respond well to planting in October. The soil is still warm and we get sufficient natural rainfall. The plant is focused on root establishment and not top growth in fall. By next spring you have an established plant that is off to the races.
It’s also time for trick or treat when it comes to weeds in your lawn and landscape. I beg your “garden”? Well for all those who call me in April and May telling me weeds seem to be appearing from no where overnight, I have a trick FOR you before they play a trick ON you. October is the time to rid the yard of winter annual weeds like Henbit when they appear waiting for you to ignore them. In spring they’ll burst into flower and “appear overnight”. While controlling winter annual weeds it is also the perfect time to control perennial weeds like Dandelions. With both types of weeds you can spend some time with a good pair of gloves or a “weed popper” if you want to take the manual approach. I find a stroll with a weed control spray applied directly to the weeds provides excellent control in fall. Transference of controls into the roots is much better in fall then in spring. Take me to your “weeder” in October and you’ll have time to treat yourself to some fun, not tricks, in spring.
Use leaves as a carbon source in your garden then feed your lawn in fall
Use leaves as a carbon source in your garden then feed your lawn in fall

If you want a better garden next spring you need a kick in the “plants” now. I beg your “garden”? I have found from personal experience that the people who spend some time in their outdoor living space in October have the nicest lawns and landscapes with less effort in spring.

Such a Pansy

I try to get people to believe me how tough pansies are. That’s right, pansies are tough. Every fall as I preach to plant pansies for BOTH fall and spring color I get the comment “I thought pansies were annuals?” Well they are considered annuals but they overwinter well and provide the bonus of both fall and spring color. I like to plant spring flowering bulbs like daffodils, fill in the hole and then plant pansies over the top.

Pansies are colorful tough dudes
Pansies are colorful tough dudes

The pansies are colorful during the fall season well into November and then the bulbs grow through the blooming pansies in spring. A “Pansy” describing someone who is weak was derived I believe from the general use of the word pansy for any flower. The plant was given a bum deal for it’s name because it’s one tough reliable dude in the landscape. So if anyone ever says to you, “you’re such a pansy” say thank you very “mulch”!