Tag Archive | gardening

The Crab Apple ~ Malus Species

Like many heralds of spring, crab apples explode with color upon the dreary backdrop of April.  For a tree that can grow in almost all 50 states, there are not many other species that can offer the colors, shapes and sizes the crab offers. It also has three season interest (as seen below), with blooms in spring, beautiful green (or red) foliage in summer, along with berries for winter. Fall is usually uneventful, as fall color is unknown to this tree.

Crab apples are loved by many of our wildlife friends.

  • The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of many moths and butterflies.
  • The flowers provide an important source of early pollen and nectar for insects, particularly honeybees.
  • The fruit is eaten by birds including cardinals, robins, thrushes and finches.
  • Mammals, including mice, raccoons, vole and squirrels also eat crab apple fruit.

Although all of the blooms are similar shaped, they come in a plethora of colors, buds that bloom to another color and different bloom times. Crabs can grow from 5′ – 50′ feet, but on average, stay between 15′ to 25′ feet range. This makes them a great choice for under wires or a street tree, along with the fact they are salt tolerant. Varieties can vary from columnar, weeping, spreading, vase-shaped to pyramidal which allows them to be planted almost anywhere. Click here for my favorite ‘cheat sheet’ (It’s a PDF) on crabs, which shows size, shape, bloom and berry colors, along with other great info.

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Sadly, there are many things lurking out there to attack crabs. Although many of the new varieties are resistant to one or more disease; scab, fireblight, leaf spot, rusts are among the top killers of crabs. Buying a resistant variety is the key to longevity.

Although the fruits are very tart, they are plentiful and able to be turned into jellies and jams quite easily, due to their high pectin. Here’s how you can do it!

A Makah Legend

The Indians who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State used to tell stories, not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When the world was very young, there were no people on the Earth. There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.

Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the Earth. Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means “The Two-Men-Who- Changed- Things.” They came to make the Earth ready for a new race of people, the Indians. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called all the creatures to them. Some they changed to animals and birds. Some they changed to trees and smaller plants.

Among them was a bad thief. He was always stealing food from creatures who were fishermen and hunters. The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things transformed him into Seal. They shortened his arms and tied his legs so that only his feet could move. Then they threw Seal into the Ocean and said to him, “Now you will have to catch your own fish if you are to have anything to eat.”

One of the creatures was a great fisherman. He was always on the rocks or was wading with his long fishing spear. He kept it ready to thrust into some fish. He always wore a little cape, round and white over his shoulders. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Great Blue Heron. The cape became the white feathers around the neck of Great Blue Heron. The long fishing spear became his sharp pointed bill.

Another creature was both a fisherman and a thief. He had stolen a necklace of shells. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Kingfisher. The necklace of shells was turned into a ring of feathers around Kingfisher’s neck. He is still a fisherman. He watches the water, and when he sees a fish, he dives headfirst with a splash into the water.

Two creatures had huge appetites. They devoured everything they could find. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed one of them into Raven. They transformed his wife into Crow. Both Raven and Crow were given strong beaks so that they could tear their food. Raven croaks “Cr-r-ruck!” and Crow answers with a loud “Cah! Cah!”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called Bluejay’s son to them and asked, “Which do you wish to be–a bird or a fish?”

“I don’t want to be either,” he answered.

“Then we will transform you into Mink. You will live on land. You will eat the fish you can catch from the water or can pick up on the shore. ”

Then the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things remembered that the new people would need wood for many things.

They called one of the creatures to them and said “The Indians will want tough wood to make bows with. They will want tough wood to make wedges with, so that they can split logs. You are tough and strong. We will change you into the yew tree.”

They called some little creatures to them. “The new people will need many slender, straight shoots for arrows. You will be the arrowwood. You will be white with many blossoms in early summer.”

They called a big, fat creature to them. “The Indians will need big trunks with soft wood so that they can make canoes. You will be the cedar trees. The Indians will make many things from your bark and from your roots.”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things knew that the Indians would need wood for fuel. So they called an old creature to them. “You are old, and your heart is dry. You will make good kindling, for your grease has turned hard and will make pitch. You will be the spruce tree. When you grow old, you will always make dry wood that will be good for fires.”

To another creature they said, “You shall be the hemlock. Your bark will be good for tanning hides. Your branches will be used in the sweat lodges.”

A creature with a cross temper they changed into a crab apple tree, saying, “You shall always bear sour fruit.”

Another creature they changed into the wild cherry tree, so that the new people would have fruit and could use the cherry bark for medicine.

A thin, tough creature they changed into the alder tree, so that the new people would have hard wood for their canoe paddles.

Thus the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things got the world ready for the new people who were to come. They made the world as it was when the Indians lived in it.

 

*** Did you like this post? I have more coming that show trees in all of their seasons. Stay tuned!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Re-potting Houseplants

imageIt had been about 5 years since I took in these two orphans from work. They had been hanging under a pergola for one season and the clients didn’t want them anymore. Their loss is my gain! I re-potted them into these cool cornucopia looking bamboo baskets and they have lived happily in my south window since. 

I started to notice the soil around the outside edge started to feel a bit ‘crunchy’ for lack of a better term. These hang high, and I can’t see into them without removing them from the hooks, so I had to go on other signs they wanted new soil for their feet. Crunchy soil and the fact it took less time for me to hear the water flowing into the drip pan, meaning there were fissures in the soil that allowed the water to flow through the soil without any uptake of water into the soil. I finally decided it was time for a re-pot.

Many plants do actually prefer to be rootbound. My ficus and other philodendron plants have been in the same pots for decades. Other plants need the freedom to spread their roots…. These had gotten a bit thin on top, so along with the re-pot, I was going to transplant many of the runners to the pot to return it to it’s afro past.

  • First, I pruned off all the runners. I wanted the plant to put all of its energy into making new roots and leaves on the existing plant, not want to ‘Seek out new life and civilizations” ;-).
  • Then, I had to remove part of the old pot, as it had grown roots all through the bottom. The new pots weren’t that much larger than the old, however these do like to be root bound and I didn’t want to have them swimming in a ‘too large’ pot. I also had size restrictions on the hangers.
  • I took off about and inch of roots from the bottom. I wanted to encourage them to grow down into the new soil I placed on the bottom of the new pot. I also took off a bit of soil on the sides where there were no roots, so new, nutrient-filled soil will go.

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  • I placed about 2 inches of potting soil in the bottom of the new pot. The pot was only about an inch larger around, but just enough to plant some newbies in there.
  • These are very easy to propagate. Prune them at a node (where there looks to be roots growing) and pop it in the new soil.
  • Be sure to keep these new babies watered. They aren’t getting the supplemental nutrients from Mom anymore, and will need some extra help.

 

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And were back to lookin’ tropical 😉

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Another DIY – Evergreen Holiday Pot in Bucket

After making my gold / brown pot for my front door, my husband loved it so much, he wanted me to make one for his boss. Oakey-dokey! I can do that!!

If you’ve already read my DYI post for my last pot, most of this post is going to be plagiarized from that one… If you don’t want to read how to put this together, just look at the photos =-)

Instead of me using a liner for his pot, as I did not know if he had an existing pot to use, I used a shiny steel bucket. This time I did not have any soil, so I filled the bottom with a few rocks and cut the foam to fit in the bucket. This serves three purposes, better water collection for the greens at first, then for it to freeze the greens in place with little expansion, and lastly, a heavy base so the design won’t fall over in the wind and snow.

First, place your sticks (birch poles here), or the largest diameter things first. You’ll know right away if your foam is going to hold, nothing like making your whole design, and then placing your sticks and busting the foam!! Arrrg! >:-O Yes, I have learned the hard way!

Think about where your pot will be displayed. Will they be on the sides of your door? On top of a pier? On top of your mailbox? Or on just one side of the door, like this one. I set my sticks a bit to one side (the back) of my pot, so more bling can be added to the front and sides. If you’re pot will be able to be viewed from all angles, I’d center them. If you’re having one on either side of your door, I would mirror-image the bling on 3 sides of the pot.

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I like to get a ring around the bottom next, as you can be sure that there is a sufficient amount of greens around the bottom. Again, think of where your pot will be displayed. This one will be on the ground, so it will be viewed by looking down on it. Some folks have piers or taller areas where their pots are going, these pots will need to have a nice lower row, as this is what you may see when viewing up at it. I’m using Scott’s Pine for my bottom. I love this material, as it already has pine cones attached! Don’t worry if it sticks up a bit, as you add more to the center, it will flatten out.

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My next filler is a variegated boxwood. I love the variety of colors it brings to the mix. I’m not a huge fan of a straight green pot, although I can appreciate the simplicity. Don’t fill it to the brim, there needs to be room for other ingredients, and you can always add more boxwood later.

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Next I added some magnolia. It will take up a lot of space, which is always good as you will save on materials because of it. After that comes the eucalyptus and dried hydrangea. I usually harvest these (for free!) from the large limelight we have in the yard at work. If your display will be out in the elements, I would give them a quick spray of clear enamel. This will stick them together and help stop the wind and snow from taking their toll. I also used grape vine balls sprayed lightly with white paint, for some natural-looking balls to bring together the round, flashy ornaments that are the next step.

imageAnd now for the fun part…. the bling! The large balls were ornaments that I removed the hanger from and stuck a stick in the hole. You may need to use hot glue to steady it on the stick. The small ones came in a one-piece clump, which I cut apart. I then added the little silver glitter sticks. Voilà!

I chose to go with a silver / white theme here, as it can stay out past Christmas without looking too tacky. If I had to total my materials here, I’d guess-ta-mate it would be about $50.00 without the pot. Right now, Hobby Lobby has all their Christmas stuff on sale for 50% off! I was also able to pick-up the white/mirrored ornaments at the dollar store, SCORE!!

Happy Creating!!

 

 

 

 

 


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

5 Steps to a Fabulous, Blingy Winter Container

I have been bangin’ out winter pots for our clients all week for delivery before Thanksgiving. I will have a post on all of those soon, as they have not been delivered to the clients yet, and they look funny not in their pots! However, if you’re Jonesing for some to look at, you can visit these past posts: 20152014 & 2013.

Instead of me using a liner for my personal pot, I chose the pot I would be displaying my creation in and filled it with 3 floral foams and a 50/50 mixture of topsoil and sand. This serves three purposes, better water collection for the greens at first, then for it to freeze the greens in place with little expansion, and lastly, a heavy base so the design won’t fall over in the wind and snow.

First, place your sticks (birch poles here), or the largest diameter things first. You’ll know right away if your foam is going to hold, nothing like making your whole design, and then placing your sticks and busting the foam!! Arrrg! >:-O Yes, I have learned the hard way!

Think about where your pot will be displayed. Will they be on the sides of your door? On top of a pier? On top of your mailbox? Or in a corner, like mine. I set my sticks a bit to one side (the back) of my pot, so more bling can be added to the front. If you’re pot will be able to be viewed from all angles, I’d center them. If you’re having one on either side of your door, I would mirror-image the bling on 3 sides of the pot.

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I like to get a ring around the bottom next, as you can be sure that there is a sufficient amount of greens around the bottom. Again, think of where your pot will be displayed. Mine is only going one foot off the ground, so it will be viewed by looking down on it. Some folks have piers or taller areas where their pots are going, these pots will need to have a nice lower row, as this is what you may see when viewing up at it. I’m using Scott’s Pine for my bottom. I love this material, as it already has pine cones attached! Don’t worry if it sticks up a bit, as you add more to the center, it will flatten out.

image     image

My next filler is a variegated boxwood. I love the variety of colors it brings to the mix. I’m not a huge fan of a straight green pot, although I can appreciate the simplicity. Don’t fill it to the brim, there needs to be room for other ingredients, and you can always add more boxwood later.

image     image

Next I added some magnolia. It will take up a lot of space, which is always good as you will save on materials because of it. After that comes the dried hydrangea flowers. I usually harvest these (for free!) from the large limelight we have in the yard at work. If your display will be out in the elements, I would give them a quick spray of clear enamel. This will stick them together and help stop the wind and snow from taking their toll. I also used grape vine balls for some natural-looking balls to bring together the round, flashy ornaments that are the next step. As you can see, I always have Oreo there offering to help me.

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And now for the fun part…. the bling! The large balls were ornaments that I removed the hanger from and stuck a stick in the hole. You may need to use hot glue to steady it on the stick. The small ones came in a one-piece clump, which I cut apart. I then added the little curly-q glitter sticks and gold berry sprigs. Voilà!

I chose to go with a gold / brown theme here, as it can stay out past Christmas without looking tacky. If I had to total my materials here, I’d guess-ta-mate it would be about $55.00 without the pot. Right now, Hobby Lobby has all their Christmas stuff on sale for 50% off!

Happy Creating!!


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Skipper on Agastache

I love Skipper Butterflies!! They are always very friendly and will land on an outstretched finger. Maybe only for a moment, as their energy level is so high, they must skip on to the next flower. The Agastache (Hyssop) I was planting that day had these guys going nuts for the nectar, as there wasn’t much still blooming at the time.

Although the skipper had me thinking cutie thoughts, This post is really about this amazing plant.

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Agastache, also known as Hummingbird Mint, is essential to a pollinator friendly garden. Agastache plants are not on the menu for browsing deer and rabbits. Sometimes known as Hyssop, Hummingbird Mints are a showy, fragrant group of perennial herbs that as their name suggests, attract hummingbirds. Perhaps best of all, they offer color to the garden in late summer and early fall, when many gardens are winding down and getting a bit dull.

Hyssop are an easy group of plants to grow and are native to the United States. They are in the mint family, thus they have square stems. They can take most exposures, if water is adequate, although they do not like wet soils. They grow to about 3′ and can bloom for a very long time, from July through October.

Other facts:

  • Bees are attracted to the late-blooming flower which results in a light, anise-scented honey.
  • In traditional folk herbal medicine, hyssop tea has been used to help assist digestion. Native Americans also used hyssop as a medication to cure wounds, fevers, cough and diarrhea.
  • Hyssop is also effective in relieving pains in the chest, due to excessive coughing. It can help expel mucus, making it ideal for treating colds.
  • A poultice prepared with the leaves and stems of the hyssop plant may be used to heal burn injuries.
  • Put fresh or dried anise hyssop leaves in cheesecloth and hang from the tub faucet, letting the water flow over the herbs.  The scent from the hyssop will help calm agitated nerves.
  • Along with mental calming, it can also provide pain relief to sore muscles via a warm bath.  Hyssop is also supposed to curb nightmares.
  • Aside from therapeutic uses, hyssop is also used for culinary purposes. Fresh leaves and flowers can be added to salads and fruit salads as well as use it in the form of a garnish. Alternately, you may use fresh or dried up leaves with chicken, lamb, salmon as well as some vegetable dishes like peas.
  • Hyssop leaves can be used as a substitute for anise or mint.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Autumn Blooming Flowers 10-21-2016

We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Nelson Mandela

Here’s a few flowers that decided to hang onto summer and continue to bloom. Screw you cold weather!!

Do right by me and see what I found blooming in 201320142015

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Beautiful fall planter   ||  Perovskia atriplicifolia ~ Russian Sage

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Beautiful yellow carpet roses

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Lovely Fall Scene

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Dianthus

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Unknown red blooming grass… Beautiful!!!

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Hydrangea macrocarpa

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Knautia

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Myrica pennsylvanica ~ Bayberry (The berries are so cool!!)    ||  Unknown grass

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Chelone ~ Turtlehead

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A nicely done swale

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Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bunk’ ~ Quickfire Hydrangea


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

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!!

Autumn Blooming Flowers 10-10-2016

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? Douglas Adams

Click to see the beautiful see flowers I found blooming in 20132014 2015

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Agastache ‘Black Adder’

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Humulus lupulus ~ Common Hop plant

Hops are mistakenly called a “vine”, although it is technically a bine; unlike vines, which use tendrils, suckers, and other appendages for attaching themselves, bines have stout stems with stiff hairs to help it climb structures.

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Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Miss’~ Maiden Grass    ||    Tricyrtis formosana ‘Samurai’ ~ Toad Lily

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Asters

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Heptacodium miconioides ~ Seven Sons Flower   ||    Solanum ~ Nightshade

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Chrysanthemums

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Helianthus tuberosus ~ Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke or topinambour  ||  Panicum virgatum Hot Rod

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Buddleia davidii ~ Butterfly Bush   ||   Hibiscus syriacus ‘Aphrodite’ ~ Rose of Sharon

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Possessed rose bush growing one pink rose on a shrub of white.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

My Nymph of the Woods, in Her Autumn Color

imageTupelo’s leaves change color early in the early fall and it has been suggested that this signal might alert migrating birds to the presence of ripe fruits on the tree, a process known as foliar fruit flagging. This way the tree gets its seeds spread to farther distances.

Plants producing early colorful fall foliage and fruits include dogwood, spicebush, virginia creeper and the tupelo.  These woodies produce fruits called ‘drupes’. Drupes are stone fruits (like cherries) that have a thin outer skin, a pulpy middle and a stony center enclosing a seed. The fleshy part of these drupes is full of fat, just what a hungry, migrating bird is looking for!

Many early ripening drupes are red, and easy for birds to see, however others, like virginia creeper, tupelo and sassafras, are dark-colored and not easy to see. That makes the brightly colored leaves or ‘flags’ on these plants crucial for the fall migrants to see.

Seed dispersal obviously helps the tree species, and passing through a birds digestive system is sometimes required for the seed to germinate. This process is called ‘scarification’, which simply means the hard, outer shell of the seed needs to be compromised for the seedling to emerge. The gizzard of a bird does well to damage the outer hull of a seed.

I recently saw two Cedar Waxwings testing out the fruit on my tree… Not quite ready was my impression when the quickly flew away without dining. I had to go find out for myself and agreed, the fruit tasted like a sour cherry and needs a few more days to ripen. I hope they will be back soon =-)

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I bet when the day comes these are ripe, it will be a one-day event that the tree is cleared of fruit!

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Zone: 3 to 9

Height: 30 to 50 feet

Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Growth: Slow

Form: Pyramidal when young; opens with age; some branches are pendulous; right angled branches are attractive in winter

Salt: Tolerant

Bloom Time: May to June, insignificant

Bloom Description: Greenish white

Fruit: 1/2″ blue drubes – edible but sour

Fall Color: yellow, orange, bright red and purple

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Tolerate: Clay Soil, Wet Soil

 


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl