Tag Archive | care

Monday Memories 10-17-2016

How to Grow Garlic in the Midwest

scapesBreak up the garlic bulb into cloves. You don’t need to pull off the papery covering like in cooking. To get them off to a good start and protect them from fungal diseases, soak them in enough water to cover, containing one tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed for a few hours before planting. Garlic should be planted in the fall. Timing of planting should be within two weeks of the first frost (32°F) so they develop roots, but do not emerge above ground.

Cloves should be planted with the flat or root end down and pointed end up, 2 inches beneath the soil. Set the cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart. Top the soil with 6 inches of mulch; leaf, straw or dried grass clippings work well.

Time to Protect Shrubs for WinterScan_Pic0003

Smaller shrubs like rhododendrons, will benefit from using fresh cut branches of conifers [spruce, pine]. Direct the thick end into the ground near the crown of the plant, and intermingle the branches together. This will provide a windbreak and help stop branch breakage from the weight of snow. If the shrub is taller than the conifer branches, tie them together at different heights to protect the whole shrub.

Another method of providing protection is to use horticultural fleece, plastic, wind-break netting or commercially made covers like below. This method should be used on all late-season planted evergreens, as they may not have developed an adequate root system yet, and can dry out from harsh winds.

How to Make New Planting Beds in the Midwest

double digging 1New planting beds should begin in autumn in the Midwest because the freeze/thaw cycles of winter, work to break up the clods of clay.

Most soils in the Midwestern region are alkaline and consist of high concentrations of clay. Contrary to some opinions, there are more plants available for this soil type than any other.

Choose a location that meets the criteria for the types of plants being chosen i.e. sunny location for annuals and vegetables, or a shady location for a woodland garden.

General Pruning Techniques for Trees and ShrubsAcer x f. Autumn Blaze® 'Jeffersred' 1

Many factors must be considered when pruning any type of shrub or tree.  Proper pruning technique is necessary, and is described further at Trees are Good. Identification of the plant, along with knowing it’s growth or habit, flowering schedule, and reason for pruning, is also imperative.

Pruning of dead, dying, or diseased limbs should be done at anytime. The 3 D’s! Many problems can be avoided if the problems are not allowed to spread throughout the tree or even to the neighboring trees.

How to Prepare Your Houseplants to Come Back in For the Winter

imageMy houseplants enjoy their summers outside on the porch. I feel the living room looks a bit bare when they get moved out, however, I don’t spend much time in the house during the summer either!!
When it’s time to bring everyone back into the house, there are a few things that need to be done to insure a safe, pest-free winter. Otherwise, things can go bad fast

I then make sure the pot drains correctly and that the pot is rinsed off of dirt or any other cling-ons. This will become difficult to do if you can’t bring it outside to correct.

Some of my plants need amendments, like my orange tree prefers acid soil in this land of limestone well water. I add the garden sulfur as directed and water it in thoroughly. Again this is something you really can’t do after the plant is inside with only a reservoir under the pot. I do give some of them a bit of fertilizer, however I only give it sparingly.

25 Ways to Kill A Tree

Kill a TreeMechanical damage and improper tree maintenance kills more trees than any insects or diseases. This how-to guide will hopefully teach you how NOT to treat your tree friends. .. However, if you’re the sadistic type and love spending money replacing trees, this is a great read for you also!

1 – “Top” the tree which promotes watersprouts that weaken trees and encourage pests and disease.

Do not top trees. Tree heights can be lessened by proper crown reduction that doesn’t stimulate watersprout growth.

2 – Leave co-dominant leaders to promote “V” growth and splitting during winds and storms.

When a tree is young, select one or the other of the competing upright branches to be the main branch and cut the other off. Do not buy a tree with these characteristics.

3 – Leave crossing branches to rub protective bark and create wounds.

Prune branches that cross and rub in order to prevent bark wounds.

Click the links for the full articles!!

What to Do If a Bird Hits the Window

imageSo, here I am working on my ‘puter when I here BLAM! I know that sound. Even though I try to warn the birds with colored clings and special ‘bird eyes only’ clings, a few still don’t see the warnings and connect. Most times, they shake it off and fly away. This time, Mr. Mourning Dove was seeing stars and planets, and was just sitting quietly on the ground. As there have been many birds of prey around lately, I didn’t want him to be a sitting duck, err, dove. I had to something to help the little, dazed guy out.

This is not my first rodeo when it comes to head injuries… I’ve had a few of my own 8-D

If the bird hasn’t moved in a few minutes, it may have a concussion. This guy was toootally out of it, he could hardly stand-up and was wobbly. Many websites tell you to put the bird in a brown paper bag and put it in a dark place… I liked my box idea, as it gave him a shelter, a place with little to no stimulation.. Basically a safe place to chill-out. Of course it was open so he could leave when his world stopped spinning. I didn’t try to give him food or water, as that could have caused a whole ‘nother rash of problems.

I came and checked on the little, window rapper every half hour. He seemed fine under the paper towel, while he tried to make sense of which way was up. After about 2 1/2 hours, he was gone.

I didn’t feel there was anything else wrong with this guy, so I didn’t feel the need to try to contact a bird sanctuary. Sadly, these guys are very common and on top of it, it’s dove season here!!

Now, if you come across a bird (or any other animal) that is clearly injured (broken wing, you see blood…), you will need to contact a professional wildlife rehabilitation or you’re gonna be in big trouble. Unless you’re trained, you cannot possess a wild animal. It stops idiots from trying to keep wild animals as pets. There is a great need for rehabbers! Wanna learn how?

Rehabers are very easy to find via a web search. It’s best to do this ahead of time, so when you do see an injured animal, you know what to do and time is precious when injuries are involved. Sadly, I toootally understand rehabers are far and few between, usually have little help and do god’s work, however in the four times I’ve needed them, only once did I get through to someone and they actually helped me (with a barn sparrow). You can try a local veterinarian, however be prepared to accept the bills also.

My best piece of advice, be prepared that your ward may die on your watch. It’s sad, but that’s life. Bury them in a nice part of the garden and remember them fondly when the nearby flowers bloom. That’s how I’m getting it done. Au Natural.

Post publishing:
Sherry Felix gave me a great link to help injured birds in general. This link discusses what to do with any injured bird. Thank you again, Sherry!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 6-6-2016

Lots of critters and diseases are coming out to play with our plants. It reminds me of this patty-cake game we played as young-ins…

See, see my playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Holler down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever evermore.
Oh no my playmate
I can’t come play with you
My dollies have the flu
Boo hoo boo hoo
Can’t holler down rain barrels
Or slide down a cellar door
But we’ll be jolly friends
Forever evermore.

Say, say, my playmate
Don’t come and play with me
Don’t bring your dollies three
Cut down my apple tree
Fall off my rainbow,
Into my cellar door
And we’ll be enemies
Forever evermore.

Say, say my enemy.
Come out and fight with me.
And bring your bulldogs three.
Climb up my sticker tree.
Slide down my razor blade.
Into my dungeon door
And we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore.
Say say old enemy
Come out and fight with me
And bring your bb gun
And we’ll have lots of fun
I’ll scratch your eyes out
And make you bleed to death
And we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore.

Oh little enemy,
I cannot fight with you,
My mommy said not too
Boo hoo hoo hoo
I can’t scratch your eyes out
And make you bleed to death
But we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore.

Ilex vs Rose Sawfly

imageLarvae can be effectively controlled with a neem oil product or an insecticidal soap. Spray only the leaves (both sides), in the morning as neem oil can possibility hurt pollinators (More research needs to go into that). The strategy is to find larvae while they are still small and before damage becomes severe, like our roses! There is no need for control after the larvae have finished eating and left the plants, give or take mid-July.

Ilex VS Gooseberry Sawfly – Nematus ribesii

Many of the same family insects have the same timing.

This is the gooseberry sawfly that had attacked my gooseberry for two years a few years back. The last two years, they haven’t been found. Awesome sauce!!

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing (smothering) the insect.

Ilex vs The Asparagus Beetle


These little guys are my bane.  I use IPM (Integrated pest management), meaning that I hunt and squish bugs! I can’t say that I am pesticide free, but most issues can be taken care of without chemicals. IMO no chemical action is need for these beetles. But, if you must, I’ve sprayed neem oil on the eggs after harvesting time, which is sometime late June (soon). There are normally 2 cycles of insects here, but there could be more.

The easiest way to catch these buggers is to have a cup of water ready. As you move towards them, they move to the other side of the stalk (quite funny to watch!) Put the cup under them & wave your hand near them. Their instinct is to drop to the ground, but instead, the cup of water will catch them. The larva and eggs aren’t as easy to remove. It’s the same method I use for typing… Hunt & peck.


Ilex VS Oak WiltImage

Oak wilt is a disease caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum, that is either spread by beetles of the nitidulid family (commonly known as sap bugs), or by root grafts. The disease clogs the vascular system of the tree causing wilting.

This disease kills red oaks including; red, black, pin, and scarlet varieties. White oaks including; white, bur, and swamp white oaks tend to pull through, although it takes many injectable fungicide treatments and a lot of care must be given.

How to Attract Butterflies!

My mom called them "Flutter-by's".Click he link for a list of larval plants for many butterflies!
Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry

  • Bruce Spanworm
  • Blindy Sphinx (small)
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Amorpha canescens
  • Black-spotted Prominent
  • Dog Face
  • Asimina triloba
  • Zebra Swallowtail

Ilex VS. Dutch Elm Disease dutch elm disease

During the early summer is when effected trees are the easiest to identify. Leaves on the upper branches will curl and turn a gray-green or yellow and finally, crunchy brown. This symptom is called “flagging”, although a flag alone is not complete assurance that the tree has DED. Another symptom is brown streaks in the sapwood beneath the bark of affected branches, which is the blocked xylem. However, only laboratory isolation and identification can positively confirm that the tree has DED. Check with your local extension or State University, usually they will perform this test for a nominal fee. Most arborists find these two symptoms are enough evidence to treat or remove an elm.

Ilex VS Euonymus Scale

escaleEuonymus scale (Unaspis euonymi) is a pest that is around all year, especially on groundcover euonymus. Treatment should be done when the crawlers emerge, which is around the early part of June, although it may be a bit later this year. Male adult scales are white, and females are dark brown and are shaped like an oyster shell. Euonymus scale overwinters as a mated (pregnant) female on the plant stems. Eggs develop beneath the scale and hatch during late spring.


©Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Breck Gets a Gash

It’s said that dogs don’t have a sense of time. When I’ve only gone to the mailbox, I’m greeted like I was gone for a week! However, sometimes I do question this track of thinking. Every single time one of my dogs have injured themselves, it’s been over the weekend.

While chatting in the garage, I noticed a fresh drop of blood on the floor. I told the Hubby someone was bleeding, everyone gets checked!! Turns out Breck was the winner… Again! It did not look this bad when it happened. We applied pressure and it stopped bleeding, so we thought it was ok. We cleaned it with hydrogen peroxide and wrapped it up.

In the morning, we noticed it had opened up and started bleeding again. We shaved the area to get a better look at it. It was a good gash alright. It looked clean though and I’ve now become educated in the right methods of dog gash care!

image  image

Turns out hydrogen peroxide isn’t all that good for cuts. You might think all that bubbling of hydrogen peroxide on your wound is its germ-killing action hard at work… However, that bubbling isn’t just killing the bacteria in your cut, it’s also killing your body’s fibroblasts, the cells responsible for repairing the wound.

Only use cool water to clean wounds.

Then wrap the area with or without a bit of Neosporin. I really hate ‘coning’ a dog. However, we couldn’t have him ripping off the bandage. My solution was to spray the outer bandage with ‘bitters’ or the no-bite solution. He did lick it, but not enough to get it off.

Three days later, he was all scabbed-up and had put the incident behind him.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Scale (Again!)

As I was preparing my houseplants to come inside for the winter, I noticed a bad case of scale on my palm.


Crawlers & Female Scales

You are seeing a range of ages of scale in these photos, as scale can have one or two generations per season. The nymphs are hatched from under a female scale and ‘crawl’ to a new location. This is the only time the insect will ever move, so the nymphs are often called ‘crawlers’. Females will find a suitable location and honker-down. She will loose her legs and live under her shell. Male scale develop wings for to get around to all the women, however in most cases, he only lives for a few days.


Scale insects are divided into two categories:

Soft scales (Cottony maple scale, for example) produce a soft, thin, cottony, powdery or waxy layer over themselves that cannot be separated from the insect body.  These scale insects often produce copious amounts of honeydew.

Armored scales (like these in the photos) have a hard, shield-like cover composed of shed skins and wax that conceals the body but is not attached to the body of the insect.


Treat with horticultural oil or organic insecticidal soap. If you’re going with soap, spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect. All you will do is dry out your plant!

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.


Both new and old scales are seen in this photo

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 10-19-2015

Ah, Monday.
Aside from Friday, what day brings more emotion to the surface than good ‘ol Monday? =-)

General Pruning Techniques for Trees and Shrubs

Acer x f. Autumn Blaze® 'Jeffersred' 1Many factors must be considered when pruning any type of shrub or tree. Proper pruning technique is necessary, and is described further at Trees are Good. Identification of the plant, along with knowing it’s growth or habit, flowering schedule, and reason for pruning, is also imperative.

Pruning of dead, dying, or diseased limbs should be done at anytime. The 3 D’s! Many problems can be avoided if the problems are not allowed to spread throughout the tree or even to the neighboring trees.

When dealing with deciduous trees and shrubs, there are four types of pruning categories: inconspicuous blooming, early blooming, late blooming, and fruits.


How to Prepare Your Houseplants to Come Back in For the Winter

imageI then give everyone a dose of soap! It is best to have the plants wet before you spray the soap on as it will stay liquid longer to smother any offenders. Don’t forget the trunks. So, this is what it’s like to be a mass murderer… 😉

Oh, a note about frugality…. I love being able to make a concoction for 10¢ instead of paying $13.99 for something… HOWever, do not use dish soap in lieu of horticultural soap. Dish soap nowadays does not have the fatty-acids that aid adhesion and they are mostly made of detergents that will be harsh on the leaves.


Happy Halloween!!

2012-06-23 13.26.23Halloween now is completely different from when I grew-up. When I was a small child, we would get many homemade treats like caramel apples, popcorn balls, brownies, and rice crispy treats. We ran from house to house, filling our pillowcases with enough sugar to off 100 diabetics.

Then there was the one asshole that put a razor blade in an apple. Boom, no more homemade treats, everything must be store-bought, prepackaged candy. That was OK by us kids, surely dentists were happy! We weren’t allowed to snack until Mom & Dad looked at all of our candy and pulled out their favorites.. The price of being a child… Harrumph!

Then there was the sicko that lured a small boy into his house. Boom, no more trick or treating without an adult. Those old folks can’t keep-up to make one night of treating worth going. That’s when all the parties started. Many park districts, libraries, and churches started having gatherings where candy and activities were in abundance. I was getting a bit too old to trick or treat at this point.



Circumhorizontal Arc – Rainbow Halos!!wpid-20130914_133923.jpg

For a Circumhorizontal arc (CA) to be visible, the Sun must be at least 58 degrees high in the sky and where cirrus clouds are present. Additionally, the copious, flat, hexagonal ice-crystals that compose the cirrus cloud must be aligned horizontally to properly refract sunlight in a collectively similar manner. In principle, a CA is a type of halo. These happen a few times a year here in the Midwest. Other lower latitudes don’t get to see these at all.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories

Here’s what was going on during this time of year in the past…

Ilex VS House Sparrow

sparrowIn W. L Dawson’s 1903 book, The Birds of Ohio he said, “Without question the most deplorable event in the history of American ornithology was the introduction of the English Sparrow.”

The House Sparrow originated in the Mediterranean and expanded its range into Europe as civilization also grew. Many factors contributed to the House Sparrows invasion of America. In 1850, green inch-worms were destroying trees in New York City’s Central Park. It was thought that the house sparrow’s main diet in Europe was these green worms and if sparrows were brought to New York City, they would solve the worm problem. One year later, the Brooklyn institute released eight pairs that didn’t survive the climate change. However, after many more attempts, they did finally adapt. Others hypothesized that the House Sparrow would eat grain out of horse manure, which would help the manure decompose faster. Finally, many Europeans who immigrated to the United States during this time smuggled in the little birds they were accustomed to seeing in their native country. By the time it was realized that house sparrows do not regularly eat insects outside the nesting season or eat grain out of horse manure (yet ate it out of the horse feeders), the birds range had spread tremendously.

Ilex VS Powdery Mildew

mildew grape leaf.JPG

On grape leaf. Credit: David B. Langston

There are many species of fungus that cause powdery mildew on plants. Most only infect the leaf surface or stems and do not attack the leaf tissue of the host plant. Powdery mildew is not usually a serious problem, but to avoid severe damage to plants, quick control methods need to be taken.

Many powdery mildews, especially those that attack woody plants, are more unsightly than destructive. Good sanitation is highly important to reduce infections the next season.

  • Be proactive and purchase disease resistant plants.
  • Space the plants properly, in-well drained soils where plants receive good air circulation.
  • Dispose of diseased leaves as soon as they drop.
  • Do not compost or use as mulch.
  • Always avoid working among plants with wet foliage. Stay inside on rainy days!

Why Bulbs Aren’t Happy Looking Up Annuals Butts…

wpid-20140508_165602.jpgI was asked by a client the other day if we could plant her wpid-20150425_125400.jpgannual flowers right over her tulips, with the intent that the bulbs will ‘multiply’. I had to pass on bad news. Bulbs and annuals don’t play nicey-nice together. At least here in the Midwest…




Beware of the Mulch Volcano ~ No Tree is Safe!!

There are many rumors out there that somehow become common knowledge that are very detrimental to whatever the cause is. Mulching trees is one of them. I am so saddened when I see trees mulched up to their lower branches, called ‘Mulch Volcanoes’. Professional landscapers do it all the time for two reasons, one, to sell you more mulch and to not have to come back anytime soon to remulch you. Sadly, homeowners see this and think this is the correct way to go and the vicious cycle continues.

imagemulch volcano

There are many problems that a mulch volcano can cause. Girdling roots, poor growth, mold to name a few.. However, crown rot rates as a number one worst issue. One stiff breeze is all it will take. Notice in the photo below, the trunk snapped off right at the mulch-line. These types of happenings can cause some costly repairs. Mulch volcanoes are sneaky. Sometimes a tree with a lot of gumption will grow large, however the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

mulch volcano topple

Here are my PeeGee Hydrangea trees, PROPERLY mulched, which looked to have survived my fall planting. You can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. I really only put enough over the rootball to make it the same color/blend well with the mulch donut.


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Hydrangea Pruning ~ The RIGHT Way!

 It’s just getting warm enough to be outside for a bit of yard work. I gave my two, new PeeGee hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’) a haircut.


Hydrangeas are a mystery for some folks. Many people complain of non-blooming hydrangeas and incorrect pruning is usually to blame.

Although there are many kinds of hydrangea, they all fall into only two types of pruning.

Mophead (Macrophyllas) and Oakleaf (Quercifolia) Hydrangea types bloom on OLD WOOD.

Mopheads (think afro) are pink or blue*  (white are rare), very round blooms OR a circular bloom with larger blooms around smaller.


Oakleaf have white cone flowers like the paniculata, however the leaves look like oak leaves, very distinctive.


OLD WOOD = stems that have been on the hydrangea since the summer before the current season.

This group of hydrangeas set their flower buds around August, September or October for the following summer’s blooms. If these stems are pruned in the fall, winter, or spring, the bloom buds will be removed, and there may be little or no blooming the following summer.

Don’t fear cutting a few of these for a vase on the mantle. Stems can be cut long until August with no fear of lost blooms. After August, cut before the first set of leaves, this way the buds aren’t disturbed.

*There exists a small group of mophead hydrangea that will bloom no matter when they are pruned. ‘Endless Summer’ is this type of hydrangea.

These were created by Proven Winners and come in a blue container with their name on the side.



Paniculata (‘Limelight’ and ‘PeeGee’ ) and Arborescence (‘Annabelle’) Hydrangea types bloom on NEW WOOD.

Arborescence (think afro) are white or now pink (‘Invincibelle Spirit’ a pink arborescense), round blooms. Some can be quite large.


This is Invincibelle Spirit, a pink arborecense   Hydrangea. They are fairly new on the market and not many nurseries carry it. I think this one was created to really confuse Hydrangea pruners!! 😉





Paniculata have conical flowers, generally white with tinges of pink with age. They can be in tree form like the ones in the start of the post.


NEW WOOD = stems that grew on the plant during the current season.

A great ‘learner hydrangea’, as it can’t really be pruned at the wrong time!! =-)

Many people prune these down to the ground for winter; others keep them up for winter interest. There is a theory out there to achieve a nice, un-floppy hedge, do NOT cut them fully back to the ground to allow the stem to enlarge and hold the weight of the bloom.

If you need help identifying your hydrangea, drop me a photo via email!!


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories

I’m starting to see my small area of the world wake-up and stretch. I witnessed my first snowdrop bloom, have had to yell at my dogs NOT to chase the rabbits in the yard and my workload has increased. One out of three ain’t bad.

I’ve seen many things start to progress and want to record it, technically for posterity. I do like that I have a phenology list of plants around me and want to continue to propagate it (giggle)! I have thought about writing new posts and/or reposting old ones. Not a fan of reposts per se and writing a new one about the same topic is well, stupid IMO. However, I see others doing these type of recap posts and though it was a great idea. Monday Memories is born.

This also gets me off the hook for fresh material on the busiest day of the week  😉

The Willows are starting to turn yellow here. wpid-20140304_070015_richtonehdr.jpg

This is right on schedule with last year. This photo is from last year and had I taken a new one last Friday, it would have been void of snow. However Mr. Jack Frost is not done wit us yet! We’ve got 3-5 inches predicted for this evening! (Technically, I’m writing this Sunday night ~ We’ll see in the comments if I’m right!)


Summer blend gas is on order.

Our gas prices are starting to rise, even though the cost of a barrel of oil is going down. Yeah, living by a large city is awesome!! Not. So even though there is plenty of gas made and ready to go, the refineries have to make summer blend for the area that drives the price up almost double. $2.97 per gallon now will be $4.50 in June.

The upside is usually the price of diesel stays the same price throughout the year at about $2.70 per gallon. This is good when we are camping and driving a bit to get where were plopping for the weekend.


s daliDaylight Savings Time

This was a few weeks ago, however I think it’s important to understand where these notions come from and just why do we do it?!?

Many think this was all done to try to save resources, energy and money… However, environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, found that the Daylight saving did indeed drop lighting and electricity use in the evenings… HOWEVER, higher energy demands during darker mornings completely canceled out the evening gains.


Coming up soon!


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl