Tag Archives: flowers

The Spice of Life

July is a great month to experiment with plant material. With balmy gardening weather and post spring specials on plants at the garden center, you can afford to try some new plants with little to lose. There is still plenty of growing season ahead in July so flowering annuals can be planted to supplement your spring plantings with an experimental twist! How many times have I found new plants that I have grown to love by experimenting outside of the traditional spring planting season. As an example years ago I became enamored with a couple of flowering annuals, Verbena bonariensis and Gomphrena, leftovers of spring no one wanted.

A field of Gomphrena

In the busy spring season without knowledge of these plants, shoppers left them behind for more traditional choices like Begonias. Now discounted from spring pricing I took the “what do I have to lose approach”. I had everything to gain. Variety is the spice of life and adding new plants to your “hort”-folio is an investment in your personal garden prowess as well as enjoyment. Both of these flowering annuals became favorites of mine and have since added to the diversity of my plantings. They bloomed beautifully causing people walking by on the sidewalk to ring the doorbell to ask, “what is that plant?” I would make plant converts one by one and their legend grew. To a degree this is what happens today on sites like Pinterest where education of new varieties provides the spice of experimental interest for our landscapes.
With our busy lifestyles I believe your landscape should work as hard as you do. I also believe that mono-cultures are not a good idea in the landscape and that as in life, diversity is better. Each plant has its season in the sun when it takes center stage. Within a diverse group problems do not spread like wildfire and the diversity presents continual visual interest as each plant plays its role. You learn this by extending your reach, experimenting with plant material. The lazy hazy days of summer afford you this opportunity.

Hibiscus ‘Sultry Kiss’

I had a teacher who always said, “If you haven’t killed any plants you’re not trying hard enough.” How true. In July without the fear of frost we can try all kinds of plant material including those that provide a tropical feel in the landscape. From Herbs to Hibiscus, Morning glories to Monarda, try your hand at something new in your landscape this month….you’ll be glad you did.

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”.

Zip up your Plants

Remember not all fertilizers are created the same. Take the primary nutrient nitrogen needed to green plants and provide growth. You can get nitrogen in less expensive urea forms that are very water soluble and here today gone tomorrow activated by water and temperature. Organic, natural or more expensive advanced synthetic forms of nitrogen are slower release water insoluble fertilizers needing soil bacteria and healthy microbes or biology to make the nutrients available to the plant. In an era of need for instant “grass”-ification, often some sulfur or iron is added to fertilizer mixes to give the quick deep green we desire. The least expensive and most dramatic nitrogen for our plants is atmospheric nitrogen….the kind of green up you see all around you the morning after a nighttime lightning storm. Regardless, nitrogen is just one of 19 elements considered essential for plant growth. Primary nutrients, secondary nutrients and trace nutrients are all needed for healthy plants. Now that June has arrived and plants are actively working, growing, feeding, fruiting and blooming you need to “zip up your plants!” In June don’t forget to feed your plants or as I call it “zip up your plants” as they are actively growing and blooming in one of the best gardening months of the year!
June is an incredible month in Michigan for annual, perennial, herb and landscape plants. With the threat of frost gone and long days the growth and performance of landscape plants in June is phenomenal….this is what we’ve been waiting for! Don’t forget about own-root landscape roses in June. Heavy feeders, with the long light days of June into July these landscape workhorses put on a show!

Vigorous shrub Own Root Roses

Vigorous shrub Own Root Roses

Perennials shine in the month of June and annuals planted back in May come into their own as they establish roots and benefit from the long day length.
Hanging baskets purchased back in May need to be watched in this month. A slow release fertilizer combined with a water soluble fertilizer keeps them fed. Learn to tell from the weight of the basket if they need water. Sunny and windy days can quickly dry out hanging baskets. Even the Boston Ferns hanging from the porch on the north side of the house can quickly dry out on a windy June day. Soil polymers can help with moisture retention.
June is a great month to analyze your landscape as well as other’s landscapes. Make note of what you like and want in your landscape. For example deer resistant and stunning Alliums are in bloom in June. These are hardy bulbs in the onion family that you plant in fall for show stopping interest in May and June.

Allium....plant them in fall for a show in June!

Allium….plant them in fall for a show in June!

Look at other homes in your walks through the neighborhood or visit professionally landscaped gardens to note the changes you want to make this coming fall. By doing this you get a “hedge”-ucation and can zip up your plants and landscape for the following season. Remember June is a kick in the “plants” for all us plant lovers!

Sprout it from the rooftops!

“Sprout” it from the rooftops! Spring has finally arrived.
April is an amazing month in West Michigan. We all emerge from our homes and become reacquainted with our neighbors as the sounds of lawn mowers once again fill the air on a spring evening. The lush green grass grows so fast it seems you can watch it grow. Tulips and daffodils push their way out of the soil and the once dormant stems of forsythia, lilacs and magnolia seem to swell with pride as their buds pop open. Easter celebrations and Arbor Day tree plantings symbolize a new beginning.

Say "yellow" to spring!

Say “yellow” to spring!

“Sprout” it from the rooftops….spring is finally here!
April is a good month for soil preparation, top dressing planting beds with compost and refreshing mulched landscape areas. Consider application of pre-emergence weed control in landscape beds as the soil warms up. Most weed seed will germinate when soil temperatures get to around 60 degrees. The same applies to your lawn as this is month to avoid crabgrass by applying pre-emergence crabgrass controls in April. An organic weed seed suppressant and natural nitrogen source you may want to try for both your lawn and landscape beds would be corn gluten.
Remember that after a long cold winter the deer and rabbits will find the emerging new vegetation a wonderful salad buffet and taste treat. Oh “deer”! Use some natural repellant sprays on emerging vegetation like tulips and hosta before they are “deerly” departed. Many good repellants use garlic and herbal oils as well as other smelly and bitter tastes to make the sprouting buffet less attractive. I also like to use Milorganite as a fertilizer at the base as it will also double as a helpful repellant to foraging creatures.
If you’re doing some tree planting or tree care to celebrate Arbor Day this month, make sure to do it right. Tree planting depth is an important consideration when planting. Trees planted too deep or trees that have a “volcano” of mulch mounded at the base do not establish well and suffer in future years. Good taper at the base, root collar health at the soil level and roots that are allowed to spread and work their way into the upper profile of the soil to seek out nutrients, water and footing are important considerations for your tree.

If this tree had been properly planted years ago issues like poor taper and girdling roots would not be an issue now

If this tree had been properly planted years ago issues like poor taper and girdling roots would not be an issue now

As you “sprout” it from the rooftops remember that even though we get some nice warm April days the overnight temperatures can drop to below freezing. We often get a few “zinger” overnight frosts in April and our last frost date is usually not until between May 10 and May 20. Some plants like Pansies can handle light frosts but other tender vegetation and sprouts may need to be protected from time to time so watch the forecasts and harden off tender plants gradually before planting outdoors. Container gardening affords you this opportunity by giving you the flexibility to move plants inside on the occasional frosty night.
Have fun and “sprout”it from the rooftops….it’s finally spring!

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.