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Climbing the Walls

Vines and vineyards have a rich storied history. From the Middle East to France and beyond there is evidence of wine production dating back to 4,000 BC and beyond with numerous Biblical references celebrating vines…..talk about “Da-vine” intervention. I use grapevines on fencing in my yard, not for the production of grapes, but rather the aesthetic feel it provides in my landscape. The same can be said for Hops (Humulus lupulus).

Hop to it!

With the interest in craft beers, growing hops not just for production but their ornamental qualities has become popular. Hops are an herbaceous perennial easy to grow. Provide sunlight and plenty of support and by August and September the presentation of foliage and “nuggets” (hops) can be quite spectacular! Hops like a rich, well-drained soil, so till deeply with good organic matter for best results.
The list of vines you could try in your yard is extensive and fun. If you don’t have a lot of yard space going vertical may be just the answer to create an intriguing enjoyable landscape. From Climbing Hydrangeas to Trumpet Vine, Honeysuckle to Wisteria, you may find you have to apply “tough love” and at some point slow their growth to encourage blooming via root pruning. A vine wants to grow and grow sometimes in lieu of producing blooms. In those cases some root pruning or stress will show the vine who is boss and get it to bloom.
Remember vines grow. It is their “nature”. Provide sturdy support structures with a tendency to “overdo it”.
For days of “vine and roses” here are some vines I suggest you try in your landscape to get growing.

The wonder of Wisteria….a showstopper!

• Wisteria. Make sure to have a strong structure for this vine with plenty of room to grow. A Wisteria can swallow a structure or building but planted in the right place the blooms and results are stunning.
• Clematis. The key to Clematis is “cool roots and hot tops”. This blooming vine is notorious for its presence at mailboxes and on lamposts.

The bashfully beautiful Clematis in dappled shade

Mulched at the base with organic matter in the soil in a sunny area the flowers are simply gorgeous.
• Climbing Roses. Heavy feeders that need sunlight and support, if given these three elements a climbing rose can provide floriferous results for years to come.
• Trumpet Vine. This aggressive grower is easy to grow with some even labeling it “invasive”. That said if you have the room to grow, this woody vine produces blooms to attract Hummingbirds to your yard and provides a visual explosion. (note that both Trumpet Vine and Wisteria both may benefit from root pruning see mention earlier)
• Honeysuckle. With sweet yellow to orange and red blossoms this easy growing vine will attract pollinators, butterflies, hummingbirds to your landscape. Prune back hard in fall and the following year watch it grow!
• Climbing Hydrangea. With white lacecap blooms in summer and aerial rootlets this vine is a “clingy” must in the aerial landscape with glossy green foliage.
• Hops Humulus lupulus. An herbaceous perennial that is ornamental in summer and has broad interest due to the craft beer industry.
• Passion Vine Passiflora. For exotic blooms this might be your vine. Not hardy in most areas of Michigan (herbaceous habit surviving in zones 6 or warmer) don’t let it keep you from trying this vine for its intriguing blooms.
• Morning Glory Ipomoea. What’s the story morning glory? Easy to grow from seed in warm weather this vine has adorned many mailbox posts and lampposts in its day. A tender annual its tendrils are fast growing and adept at pirouetting.
• Moonflower. This tender annual vine has unique unfurling white blooms perfect to be used on decks where evening entertaining will take place. With moonflowers as well as Morning glories go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer (which grows more foliage). Supplementing with some high phosphorus will encourage blooming in lieu of foliar growth.

Lettuce be careful out there

I remember as a kid on hot summer days drinking from the garden hose. The water always tasted funny. No doubt as the hose baked in the hot summer sun it gave a distinctive flavor to our refreshment. Today we are warned and studies confirm that water from a garden hose can contain in addition to bacteria some toxic chemicals. I am told lead levels, bromine, phthalates, BPA and other ugly stuff I can’t pronounce can be in your garden hose. I just wet my plants. Better be safe than sorry, don’t let your kids drink from the garden hose. It does explain a lot about me. I’ve considered bottling water with the garden hose taste to sell. There may be other baby bloomers out there like me who might buy it just for nostalgia sake.

I just wet my plants

In addition I was intrigued when I saw a British study about garden injuries and what lands people in the hospital. Garden hoses were on the list and in the top ten. I’m sure as a tripping hazard when left laying around. “Water” you waiting for? Roll up that hose. Of course the top issue was the lawn mower with everything from injuries while servicing to foot injuries while mowing to flying projectiles! It is without surprise the lawn mower tops the list in both the UK and the US. The number 2 item on the British list is quite surprising however. Flower pots were the second listed item causing gardening injuries. I would suspect hand cuts and dropped pots as well as lifting causing back injuries. Don’t let your day “go to pot” with a trip to the ER. Get your neighbor to help.
Pruners, spades, Electric hedge trimmers, shears, and garden forks all obviously made the top ten list. Interestingly the innocent hose and sprinkler made the list of dangerous accident causing objects. I suppose if you set the sprinkler and run it could result in a mishap. A significant amount of injuries however occur when an unintended “trip” is the result of an errant garden hose. It’s far better to take a trip to the beach and put your toes in the water than to end up at the doctor. I would think weed whackers would be on the list. Your “whipper snipper” is prone to kick up some dust and debris so make sure always to be wearing protective eye wear when using them.

May Day

May Day 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 running shoes that day so you can catch the ringer and “plant” one on them!
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. 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.
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.

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy

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. 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.

Complimentary colors Purple and Yellow

Complimentary colors Purple and Yellow

Finally you might want to try your hand at a three way combination color scheme. 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. 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”.

Pink and Orange combination

Pink and Orange combination

When you have “Thyme” on your hands

In this fast paced world of busy lives, Herbs pamper us with gifts from the garden. We all know that the garden is good for the mind, body and spirit when we need to unplug. It is “sage” advice to take some “thyme” for yourself and benefit from growing some Herbs. Herbs are easy to grow with some good soil and sunshine. Perfectly suited for containers they can be grown anywhere, even if your space is small.

Herbs are perfect for use in containers with other plant material

Herbs are perfect for use in containers with other plant material

That said I recommend also incorporating Herbs into the landscape with your other plants and flowers. A dash of Lavender, Nepeta, Thyme or Oregano can spice up any landscape with color, interest and aroma.
“Basil” instinct tells us that Herbs in our life provide a lot of benefit. Your garden should give back to you. Herbs do that in a big way. Aside from their obvious “scent”-uous nature, herbs give back to us in countless ways. As soaks and teas, aromatherapy and steams, oils and perfumes, elixirs and medicine, rubs and skin care, treats and colorful garnish, herbs like the garden truly benefit the mind, body and spirit.

Sweet Woodruff is an herbal groundcover used to float or "steep" in white wine (thank our German friends) to make a great tasting white wine for a sunny May day!

Sweet Woodruff is an herbal groundcover used to float or “steep” in white wine (thank our German friends) to make a great tasting white wine for a sunny May day!

Start with a good lightweight growing mix and a good sized container. Pick a sunny spot and you will be in your ele-“mint”. No need for lots of fertilizer, over-watering and over-fertilizing weakens the plants and diminishes the oils in their aromatic foliage. Remember that herbs are a collaborative sort, often making great companions with vegetable plants. I don’t have scientific proof but I can tell you I am convinced that tomatoes off the vine taste better when basil is planted nearby.

Affordable and fun to grow

Affordable and fun to grow

Here are some herb suggestions for you from my garden and the benefits they provide me.
Basil….uplifting and energizing. Make me think of summer and fresh tomatoes.
Borage….easy to grow, a good companion with a cucumber like aroma
Chamomile….soothing with a sweet apple fragrance
Hops….amazing visual impact in the landscape
Lavender….beautiful flowers, healing and rest
Lemon Balm….aroma, rest, cleansing
Mint….stimulating and cleansing. And invasive…grow only in containers
Parsley….Healthy refreshing edger or border
Rosemary….Aroma, strong pine like fragrance. Perfect late season herb.
Sage….Rich, earthy, appealing foliage
Thyme….decorative, stimulating and collaborative
Oregano….spice of life, great groundcover or container edge or trailer
Nepeta and Catmint….pungent aroma and long lasting bloom.

Tulip Time Appearance

Listen to my “two lips” as I tell you I look forward to speaking at Tulip Time this year! I will be speaking Saturday May 7 at 2 PM….get ready for a real kick in the plants….hope to see you there! Here is the link to buy tickets on the Tulip Time website : http://www.tuliptime.com/events/kick-in-the-plants/

Rick Vuyst

Rick Vuyst