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.

A June Swoon

OK here we go…..as the month of June arrives the landscape goes Ka-Bloom!
June is a month we swoon over the natural beauty of bloomers in the landscape. My Mom told me there would be “daisies” like this. It’s a combination of sunshine along with perennials in their prime while the May planted annuals take root and begin to perform on nature’s stage. The landscape Roses radiate while the Peonies pop in their prime. Allium giganteum tower above the garden’s performance, while Sweet Woodruff and blooming Ajuga provide a carpet under stunning Iris. And no, Ajuga is not a spring break hot spot in the Caribbean.

Leucanthemum Daisy May Proven Winners
Leucanthemum Daisy May Proven Winners

June can make you swoon to the intoxicating aroma of flowers in bloom as the landscape is full of life, arguably one of the most beautiful months of the year in Michigan. If you “plant”-isize about a beautiful garden June is your month.
Don’t let your commitment swoon to the garden as we approach the days of summer. Remember a thin layer of an inch or so of mulch for your landscape plants helps cool the roots and retain moisture as well as minimize weeds. Also remember your fledgling annuals are growing in leaps and bounds and are hungry. So are your Roses. They are heavy feeders and June is an important month to provide both dry and water soluble feeding to maximize performance. The hanging baskets that have been up since Mother’s day also need a feeding and attention when it comes to water on warm windy days. It’s easy to tell when they need water by just pushing up on the base of the basket with your hand and feeling the weight of the basket. Because soil contracts from the sides of the basket when dry, make sure to water thoroughly until the water is running out of the base of the basket.
Don’t forget to pinch your Mum in June! Pinch back mums to 6 to 10 inches above the ground until early July. This will provide nice sized blooming plants in fall that don’t become too tall and flop over in the landscape.
June is a great month for planting herbs. Herbs love the longer days and the sunlight it provides. Enjoy the aroma of basil in the warm sun. I’m convinced basil planted in close proximity of tomatoes makes them taste better. No scientific evidence, just a thought to help you “plant” ahead. Use parsley as an ornamental plant border. Sage makes a great filler plant in mixed containers. Golden oregano is an outstanding and hardy perennial groundcover! Herbs grow best in a good humus soil with lots of sunlight.
OK, I’m sending you to your “bloom”…..enjoy the romance of a June Swoon!

Hit the ground running

Hit the Ground Running!
May is an exciting month for me with the 5th Third River Bank Run and the end of frost dates (hopefully) here in West Michigan. Our last frost date is usually around May 10 so we can “hit the ground running” in the month of May planting our flowers, vegetables and herbs out in the garden. It’s a kick in the “plants” to get our outdoor living lifestyles in high gear as we anticipate the summer months ahead.

5th 3rd River Bank Run
5th 3rd River Bank Run

When we hit the ground running remember that the soil you plant in is the “stomach” of the plant. The quality and preparation of the soil is key as the foundation of the plants you put in the ground or container. When planting vegetables and herbs a healthy soil will mean healthy plants and ultimately a healthy you! The key to healthy soils is three primary elements, Carbon, Minerals and Biology. Carbon comes from amendments you add like compost providing good soil structure. These amendments improve soil structure so it can breathe as well as maintain a good balance between moisture retention and drainage. Minerals are depleted or locked up in many of our soils. Good quality natural fertilizers with some micro-nutrients will help. More importantly the third element “biology” plays a key role in unlocking the nutrients and minerals to your plants.
"Dirty" thoughts
“Dirty” thoughts
The addition of beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae will keep you and your plants happy and healthy or should I say “well grounded”. The addition of ground up leaves, compost and some Dairy Doo to existing parent soils I have found quickly increases the “biology” of the soil evident alone by the earthworms, texture and even the aroma of the soil. That’s when I know those tomato plants I put in the ground are going to produce some good summertime eating!
As it relates to Flowering Annuals “lettuce” have some fun and plant one on me! Many of today’s generation of flowering annuals are easy care, all season colorful bloomers trialed and tested for performance and disease resistance. Some of my favorites to plant for reliable summertime color well into fall are:
Calibrachoa,Cleome,Pennisetum purpureum Euphorbia Diamond Frost, “Big” Begonias, Gomphrena, Supertunia or Wave Petunias just to name a very few. pottery and annuals 2
Make sure to plant up some containers and go to pot! I just can’t contain myself when it comes to the countless possibilities of plants and container styles to express one ’s self! When planting in containers remember a drainage hole at the bottom is important and the quality of the soil you use will have a big role in your success. wordpress-aug-4I like to incorporate a slow release 3 to 4 month fertilizer worked into the soil at the time of planting and then supplement in season with a water soluble fertilizer for best results. Pick out your flowers and when planting work from the center out thinking “focal” first, then “filler” then “edger” and finally “trailer” over the side of the pot. Voila we’ve hit the ground running!

I’m Only Humid

A gardener’s zest for yard work can wilt in August. We’re only “humid” and I understand. Yet in August some of the best entertaining days in the garden are for us to enjoy. From Rudbeckia to Sedums to Buddleia the landscape continues to entertain. With a little TLC and the willingness to wet our “plants” the landscape can reward our senses like an ornamental grass and its wispy dance in the warm summer breezes.

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color
Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

I love the month of August and it’s the gateway to some of the best gardening months of the year. This is no time to throw in the “trowel” on the yard and garden. Besides, now is the time we are rewarded with the fruits of our labors harvesting the tomatoes and peppers we lovingly planted months ago.
August is a great time to rejuvenate our flowering landscape annuals and give them a kick in the plants! Chopping back stretched, tired or leggy annuals and then feeding with a water soluble fertilizer will give them new life.

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat
Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

They’ll kick back into gear and produce a new flush of growth and color well into October. Mums and Asters become available starting in August to supplement your rejuvenated annuals for continuous color. In addition ornamental grasses take center stage in August and September as drought and heat tolerant extroverts in your yard. This is also the month for panicle Hydrangeas like PG, ‘Limelight’ or ‘Little Lamb’ to take center stage in the landscape with their stunning cone shaped blooms. Easy to grow and reliable they put on a show in August and September.

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze
Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

August is also a month to think about having that lawn you’ve always wanted. The best time to seed or over seed or establish a new lawn is mid August to October 1. The soil is nice and warm and if you kill unwanted vegetation grass seed will establish nicely as we head into fall. I still believe August 15 to October 1 is the best time of year in Michigan to establish a little “lawn” and order. Remember also that newly hatched grubs do most of their damage to a lawn in August and September, especially if the lawn is thirsty. If you did not apply a grub control in July you still have time this month while the young grubs are feeding near the surface. If you apply now you shouldn’t have to apply next spring.

Establish some "lawn" and order in August
Establish some “lawn” and order in August

Keep vegetable plants like tomatoes well watered so they keep producing and be watching for those miserable tomato hornworms on the plants. Head outside in the evening hours with a bucket of soapy water and pick them off the plants to drown their sorrows in your bucket of soapy water. Plenty of water at the base of your tomatoes and the calcium supplements you added earlier in the season will avoid the unsightly blemishes and “zippering” of the fruit you long to pick.
Unfortunately this also the month to be vigilant in inspecting under decks, patio furniture, mailboxes and other hiding areas for European Paper Wasps. These unwelcome guests pack a wallop of a sting when disturbed and have become much too common in our late summer landscapes. Look for the “paper”-like nests attached to railings or under patio furniture and spray from a distance with a knock down stream of wasp control spray.

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade
The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

Don’t let your enthusiasm wilt in the heat of August. We’re only “humid” and the garden party has just begun. See you in September.
Rick Vuyst

We Rose to the Occasion

We “Rose” to the occasion!
Invite some royalty to your garden party this summer. The rose has long been the queen of the summer time garden. Roses have been symbols of love, fame, beauty, war, and celebration and have quite a history. From use as confetti at celebrations to a source for perfume, they “rose” to the occasion in good times and bad.

Own Root Roses
Own Root Roses
A lady with expensive taste and a love for gardening and roses, Napoleon’s wife Josephine established an extensive collection of roses at Chateau de Malmaison, an estate seven miles west of Paris in the 1800s. While Napoleon was out fighting his battles and making his conquests, Josephine was busy spending his money on the chateau and extensive gardens with a particular interest in roses. He was none too pleased with her floriferous spending habits but you can’t tell me he didn’t appreciate a stroll through the rose garden.
No one ever promised you a rose garden, and if some of your previous attempts met their Waterloo you might be hesitant to try them. Maintain your “composture” because help is on the way!
We Rose to the Occasion
We Rose to the Occasion
Roses today are enjoying a resurgence in popularity specifically shrub, landscape or what we call “own root” roses. Today’s time pressed homeowners are demanding of their landscape plants and roses are no exception. Landscape or shrub roses provide a long season of blooms and color from June to November. Very resistant to disease and problems and loaded with flowers June to November, they have excellent winter hardiness. Own-root roses are not grafted so it’s the same plant below the ground as above. They can do what a rose has always wanted to do and that is growing new canes from the root system. Therefore you get many more canes and lots more flowers on a hardy easy to grow plant. Simply put today’s varieties “rose” to the occasion.
There are many “own root” or shrub roses available to today’s homeowner from the “Drift” series
Drift Roses
Drift Roses
of groundcover roses to “Easy Elegance” roses they are a workhorse in the landscape. Varieties like “Knockout” and “Carefree Delight” or “Nearly Wild” and “Home Run” or “Yabba Dabba Doo”. I have some Proven Winners “Home Run” roses in my yard and they have continuous blooms and great disease resistance to both black spot and powdery mildew. They are heat tolerant, cold hardy with no winter covering and require no deadheading. I give them a general pruning back a couple times a year and that’s it!
For true success I recommend you plant them in a good sunny spot. Roses are sun worshippers. A minimum of 6 hours of sun a day or more will work. Shrub roses like any rose bush appreciate morning sun to help dry the foliage. Some attention to the soil will certainly help. Roses are heavy feeders so stay grounded my friend. I like to feed them with a dry feed around the base a few times a year. Rose Tone works well for feeding supplemented with a water soluble feeding now and then. Incorporating organic material into the existing soil at the time of planting is important to improve the structure of your soil and top it off with a one to two inch layer of mulch at the base. When the weather gets hot and sunny this summer they’ll appreciate a soil that has some moisture retention capability and yet well drained.
I very “mulch” encourage you to add own root or shrub roses to your landscape. They are not the work laden examples we’ve seen years ago of a few leafless stems with a bloom at the top. They go “Ka-bloom” in the garden and will impress your neighbors and friends. I know you can do it you “rose” to the occasion.