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Archives for October 31, 2017

Mass Hort to host symposium on ecological garden design

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Massachusetts Horticultural Society will host a symposium on ecological gardening design and techniques at their home, the Gardens at Elm Bank.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Massachusetts Horticultural Society will host a symposium on ecological gardening design and techniques at their home, the Gardens at Elm Bank.

The symposium will empower home gardeners to become the stewards of their landscape. Presenters will introduce you to the basic principles and benefits of ecological gardening. Attendees will discover ways to welcome birds and other wildlife, improve your soil, techniques to select the ideal native plants for your growing conditions, how to monitor and manage invasive plants, and so much more.

The symposium will run from 1-5 p.m. For more details and to register please visit Registration is $40 for Mass Hort members, $60 for general audience.

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Mass Hort to host symposium on ecological garden design – News …

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Massachusetts Horticultural Society will host a symposium on ecological gardening design and techniques at their home, the Gardens at Elm Bank.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Massachusetts Horticultural Society will host a symposium on ecological gardening design and techniques at their home, the Gardens at Elm Bank.

The symposium will empower home gardeners to become the stewards of their landscape. Presenters will introduce you to the basic principles and benefits of ecological gardening. Attendees will discover ways to welcome birds and other wildlife, improve your soil, techniques to select the ideal native plants for your growing conditions, how to monitor and manage invasive plants, and so much more.

The symposium will run from 1-5 p.m. For more details and to register please visit Registration is $40 for Mass Hort members, $60 for general audience.

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Healing Garden at Kenosha’s Aurora Cancer Care clinic

Plants, and gardens specifically, have the power to heal.

In addition to the medicinal powers of their chemical compounds, when living plants are gathered together in a garden, the effect is relaxing — and, by extension, healing — to those in need.

In fall 2015, horticulture students at Gateway Technical College got the opportunity to participate in this healing process when they were asked to submit designs for a Healing Garden to be installed at Aurora Cancer Care, 6811 118th Ave.

The winning design was created by Amanda Granger, a Williams Bay resident pursuing her associate’s degree in horticulture at Gateway’s Kenosha campus.

Granger’s design was used as a concept for the final garden, said Gateway Horticulture Instructor Courtney Greve. With her design as a template, professional landscape architect

Brian J. Boeding from Paragon Design Group refined the details.

Two years later, the garden has been planted and has just wrapped up its first blooming season.

Gateway’s involvement in helping the garden come to life was recognized last week at the Kenosha Chamber of Commerce’s Business After 5 meeting held at the clinic.

Dr. Malik Bandealy, an Aurora oncologist, was also on hand to honor the occasion. “Healing gardens are a relatively new concept; they complement our other (cancer treatment) therapies like art therapy and acupuncture to improve the quality of life of patients.”

The Healing Garden in Kenosha is one of five offered at Aurora Medical Centers in Southeast Wisconsin, said Jennifer Burnett, manager of oncology services at the Kenosha clinic.

Greve says assigning students real world community projects like Aurora’s Healing Garden is an important part of the curriculum.

“I like to find projects that have a community connection,” she said.

Planning the garden

Just as they would need to do in the real world of landscape design, the students visited the clinic to conduct a site analysis, took measurements and interviewed staff members (their client) for input.

“We suggested things we would like to see, such as plants that would look nice during the winter months, and features that would attract birds,” Aurora’s Burnett said.

At the time, the garden area was a flat expanse of grass on the north side of the clinic’s infusion treatment room. Designed with the intention of installing a healing garden, the large, open-plan therapy room is surrounded by windows on all sides and is devoid of television sets.

Bandealy said the treatment room design provides a peaceful, single, open room where patients can talk and informally support one another.

The Gateway students noted the dynamics of the room and the garden area and then returned to the classroom to apply what they had learned to a working design.

Before meeting with Aurora staff members, Granger says she researched other Aurora healing gardens to get a feel for what they were looking for in Kenosha.

For Granger, it was important to create a peace-inspiring environment for patients inside the room receiving chemotherapy and for patients and staff visiting the garden outside.

She did this with meandering walkways and plants of various elevations. “I wanted areas for sitting for reflection with a sense of privacy so those outside didn’t feel like they were in a fishbowl,” she said.

Softer textured plants and pastel colors were used.

Strolling through the garden

A stroll through the garden reveals a wide assortment of plants, shrubs, textures and colors. Gateway’s Granger and Greve ticked off the plants as they saw them: young maple trees, crab apples, nine bark shrubs, hydrangeas, boxwood, spruce trees, ornamental grasses, hostas and young bee balm plants (to name a few).

A winding path of crushed granite leads over a bridge that spans the dry creek bed leading up to a pergola and sitting area.

Granger said design challenges included the garden’s proximity to the interstate and the flatness of the existing terrain.

“I wanted a way to create a private space and block road noise,” she said.

Another hurdle was Aurora’s prohibition of water features in the outdoor garden — no ponds, reflecting pools, waterfalls or fountains were allowed.

“This is to prevent waterborne illness,” Burnett explained.

Because water is a such common garden element, Granger decided to create the illusion of water with a dry creek bed comprised of medium-sized wash stone in shades of pale blues, grays and lavenders.

Voting on the design

Granger’s design was one of 13 student designs submitted in December of 2015.

The student designs were displayed in the lobby of the Aurora facility for two weeks, where they were voted on by patients of the cancer center.

“Patient input was critical since they were ultimately the ones using the garden,” Burnett said. “I loved watching the patients go around and look at the drawings.”

After the selection of Granger’s garden plan, some plants and materials were modified by the landscapers to accommodate the hospital’s budget and other practical considerations. Planting took place in the fall of 2016.

Granger, 46, said that although she is a longtime home gardener, this was the first time she had put a plan to paper.

“I think all gardens can be healing,” she said. “It’s not just about picking out plants but considering the people who would be using the garden.”

The final product is being well received, hospital staff members said.

“Patients have enough turmoil in their lives; healing gardens give them an atmosphere of calm and serenity,” Bandealy said.

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ONE GARDENER TO ANOTHER: Tips on ensuring your azaleas stay healthy year-round

Azaleas are one of the most widely planted spring blooming shrubs. The burst of color from azaleas, whether manicured or left natural, bring stunning beauty to the garden and mark the time when winter is over and spring has finally sprung.

Although relatively maintenance free, azaleas benefit from a few standard practices as fall approaches that will help ensure a healthy and bountiful burst of blooms (say that five times, fast) come spring.

Azaleas need to go dormant during the winter season making it imperative that they harden off before the winter season. Hardening off, as it name implies, means that the plant will become tougher and better able to cope with the harsh conditions of winter. Watering should be reduced for the month before the first frost. After several frosts, in late fall, water your azaleas one more time before the brunt of the winter season.

Although many gardeners prefer to leave their azalea bushes to grow naturally, they do benefit from some pruning. Trim back branches to help maintain the shape and size of the plant. Remove any branches that are dead or diseased.

If the bush becomes too dense, it will suffer due to lack of air circulation. Remove interior branches down to the main trunk of the plant to “open up” your azalea and provide for proper air circulation.

Like most plants, azaleas should be mulched in fall to maintain soil moisture and temperature. Spread two inches of straw, hardwood mulch, pine straw or evergreen branches around the base of the plant, making sure to cover out over the expanse of the roots.

Leave a ring around the trunk of the azalea that is un-mulched. Having mulch piled around the trunk can cause damage from moisture, cause mold to form, and may attract insects.

We generally don’t get terribly cold winters here in North Alabama, however, newly established azaleas can be protected from the cold and heavy winds with a burlap or sheet cover or wrap. To make a wrap, place stakes around the perimeter of the plant and wrap burlap around the stakes, fastening the ends together.

If weather is particularly icy or cold, another piece of burlap or a sheet can be draped over top of the stakes for added protection. Don’t use plastic to cover your azaleas. Although it may seem like a good idea to cause a greenhouse effect, moisture can develop and freeze causing damage to the plant.

During late winter it is common for azaleas to show signs of leaf discoloration. Leaves will turn yellow or red. This is caused by a lack of nitrogen.

Fall and winter are not the time to fertilize as the damage to new growth is more detrimental to the plant than a temporary lack of nitrogen. Fertilize in spring after the threat of frost has passed.

If you find that you want to transplant your azalea, wait until spring. Limestone County is considered Hardiness Zone 7b. Azaleas when being transplanted, need time for their roots to re-establish. With the possibility of a harsh winter being a factor, your azalea will have an entire growing season to become established before the following winter.

Before transplanting, select the area for the plant to be moved and dig the hole. It should be just as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Azaleas prefer light shade, moist, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH.

Cut a circle, approximately one foot from the trunk, around the plant. If your plant is quite large, cut a larger circle to avoid cutting as many roots as possible. Azalea roots can be as wide as three times the size of the plant itself.

Some of the roots getting cut is inevitable and generally will not harm the plant. Azalea roots are not very deep, so you will only need to cut down about one foot.

Using your shovel to lift the root ball from the earth, immediately move it to the new hole and fill with soil. Water thoroughly, and continue to water at the rate of 1-2 inches per day until the plant becomes established.

With a little care, you will blissfully behold the beautiful bouquet of bright, breathtaking blooms. Until next week, happy gardening.

— Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at For more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners, visit

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Put on a sweater and other indoor gardening tips for fall – British …

The cooler weather means a lot more time indoors for gardeners — but there’s still work to be done. 

As the days get darker and the air changes, master gardener Brian Minter says plants need to be protected once they’ve been moved inside to prevent them from suffering and turning yellow.  

“We treat our plants just like we always did but no, it’s a new situation,” he told CBC guest host of B.C. Almanac Michelle Elliot.

Minter said indoor plants, even a small potted plant on the windowsill, brightens the room and helps purify the air. But they need extra care this time of year to combat the changing light, heat and humidity conditions.

“Each day, we’re losing more light and light is the essence — it’s the life and death of plants inside our homes,” Minter said. “We need to move our plants to where they are getting more light.”

And not just any light, he said. Indirect light is better than direct sunlight and artificial light can be a good substitute on those cloudy overcast days, Minter recommended.

“We have so many great LED types of lighting that you simply plug into a wall to give your plants a good spectrum of light so that helps immensely,” he said.

‘Put a sweater on’

Along with less light, decreased humidity can also be deadly for plants and cranking up the heat in the house only makes it worse.

“Put a sweater on — I’m serious. It’s chilly outside, we’re going to put the temperature up and when the temperature inside your home starts to rise, the humidity disappears,” he said.  

Watering plants is, of course, also vital but many people don’t do it correctly. Minter said the common method of touching the top of the soil to check water levels is inefficient.

“That gets your fingers dirty and that’s about all it does,” he said. “Pick up the plant and feel the weight of the plant.”

If the plant is heavy, the water levels are good and if it’s lighter than usual, give it warm — not cold — water, he said.

And it’s always better to underwater plants than overwater them, Minter added, because underwatering is easier to fix.

“Go hug a plant but, more importantly, we have to change how we look after them,” he said.

To hear more, click on the B.C. Almanac podcast below:

With files from B.C. Almanac.

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Garden calendar for the week of Nov. 5-11

Tuesday, Nov. 7

Fullerton Garden Club: Discuss gardening and work on fundraisers for the Fullerton Arboretum. 9 a.m.-noon second Tuesday of every month. Field trip related to gardening third Tuesday of the month. Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton. 714-526-6713.

Wednesday, Nov. 8

Cool Growing Orchid Society: A fun, educational night with refreshments. 7-9 p.m. every second Wednesday of the month. Garden Grove Masonic Lodge, 11270 Acacia Parkway. Free for first-time guests.

California Organic Gardening Club: The club promotes organic methods of growing, fertilizing and pest control. It also has a plant and seed exchange. 7-9 p.m. every second Wednesday of the month. Women’s Civic Club of Garden Grove, 9501 Chapman Ave. Free. 714-798-5010

Thursday, Nov. 9

American Begonia Society, Orange County branch: The meeting hosts a speaker each month who gives tips on growing begonias and companion plants. Visitors welcome. Refreshments will be served. 6:30-8:30 p.m. every second Thursday of the month except July, August and December. Fullerton Community Center, 340 W. Commonwealth Ave.

Del Norte Garden Club: Promotes gardening, floral design, “civic beautification” and environmental responsibility. The club organizes field trips, hosts speakers and promotes idea exchanges. 9:30 a.m.-noon every second Thursday of the month except July, August and December. Placentia United Methodist Church, 2050 N. Valencia Ave.

Friday, Nov. 10

Laguna Beach Garden Club: The club is committed to the advancement of gardening, horticulture, ecology and conservation through education and participation in related community projects. This month’s meeting features guest speaker, Linda Larson, The Traveling Gardener. Laguna Beach Presbyterian Church. 415 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.  949-374-2696 or

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It’s Garden Thyme! with Gail Garber of Ches. City

CHESAPEAKE CITY — This month I had the pleasure of visiting the home garden of Gail Garber of Chesapeake City. Gail has been an avid gardener since her retirement over 17 years ago. With the help of her husband, Larry, this spirited grandmother of five has created an enchanting garden retreat and wildlife haven nestled in her own backyard.

Gail and I spoke a little about what inspired her to plant her “memory garden,” what she has growing in her gardens throughout the seasons and how she keeps her garden notes organized. Additionally, she shared a few tips to help you in your home garden. I hope you enjoy Gail’s garden story!

Tell us a little about what inspired you to begin gardening.

My true love of gardening started when I retired and realized I needed a hobby. Because I have always loved birds and plants, I subscribed to Birds Blooms magazine. I came across an article in that magazine one day back in 1999 featuring a beautiful garden surrounded by a picket fence with a center garden. I fell in love with that garden and with the help of my husband, we set out to recreate it in our backyard.

We started the project using an existing laurel tree as the base of the garden and worked around it by building a wooden picket fence that we painted “sage bush” green. My husband helped make the garden beds and moved all the EP Henry stone in to create the borders and the center bed. The idea of a “memory garden” came soon after the fence and beds were complete. I liked the idea of adding a special plant in memory of a loved one who has passed away. Over the last 18 years we’ve added an arbor — hand built by my husband — stone paths, whimsical accents, a couple of themed gardens such as the golf garden and sunflower garden, bird feeders and stepping stones for each of our grandchildren. It took a while, but we found the perfect fountain and boxwood shrubs to showcase the center garden.

Now that the memory garden is complete, I’ve been creating new beds beyond the fence because I love to have beautiful views of my gardens and birds from every room inside our home. With my eye for structure and order and my husband’s whimsical touch, we’ve created a garden paradise that is inviting to friends, family and wildlife; especially birds – we have birds galore!

What would we find growing in your gardens throughout the seasons?

My memory garden features a very pretty orange-colored honeysuckle vine named Blanch, planted in memory of my husband’s grandmother. My other favorite perennials are black-eyed Susan, balloon flower, butterfly bush, lilacs, St. John’s wart, hydrangea, daisies, Dutch iris, coneflower, forget-me-nots, feverfew, sweet-autumn clematis, vinca, pachysandra, hosta, lambs ears, mums and ever-blooming roses. I enjoy planting annuals both in the ground and in pots. The plants that I favor are lantana, single-wave petunia, purple vinca, wishbone flower, new guinea impatiens, angelonia, popcorn plant, geranium, sweet potato vine and ivy. We have many beautiful and stately trees and shrubs on our property including magnolia, pine, red bud, pink dogwood, cherry, crape myrtle, holly, laurel, chaste, azalea, viburnum, abelia and boxwood.

How do you stay organized and keep track of what works in your gardens year after year?

I write everything down! I have a scrapbook for every gardening season since we started the memory garden. I keep detailed notes and photos of everything I plant in the garden. It’s very handy to go back and research what has worked well and what hasn’t. I also keep scrapbooks of all the projects we’ve done, along with a book that keeps track of prices at the garden nurseries. My friends and family sometimes lovingly tease me about those books, but when they have plant problems and come to me for help and I’m able to find the solution in one of my books, they don’t tease me so much afterwards.

Would you like to pass along any tips to help other gardeners succeed in their home gardens?

It’s helpful to know what type of soil you have so you will know what will grow best in your garden. Keep pots well watered, but don’t overwater because you will end up drowning out the roots, which makes it very difficult for the plant to recover. Deadhead (remove spent blooms) your plants to keep them blooming. Keep mums cut back until July to encourage them to bloom in the fall. Try using Efferdent tablets to clean bird baths — just be mindful if the bird bath is painted. To avoid lugging a heavy hose around, place gallon-sized water jugs filled with water throughout your garden for easy watering. It’s helpful to keep small tools and garden gloves within easy reach while working in the garden. I keep mine in a pretty hand-painted mailbox on a post along a walking path within my garden. It’s convenient and makes a fun focal point and conversation piece.

A note from Dee: I’ve had so much fun sharing garden stories with you this garden season. I hope you’ve enjoyed each home gardener’s inspiring story and their fun and helpful hints as much as I have. I look forward to sharing more garden stories and tips with you again next spring when It’s Garden Thyme! returns.

Dee Marotta travels the Cecil area in search of gardeners to feature for It’s Garden Thyme! She asks about their methods and shares what she learns here. If you’d like your garden featured, Dee would love to hear from you. You can reach her at: or 410-287-5816. You can also find her on Facebook: It’s Garden Thyme.

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HOME: Key tips to successfully garden in the Montcalm County area

“I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation” — Phyllis Theroux, American journalist (1939-present)

Landscape gardens this year in Montcalm County have been subjected to an usually wide range of severe environmental conditions — heat, rain and drought, just to name a few.

To be successful, area gardeners have had to adjust to these conditions to keep their gardens productive. I have compiled this list of key tips to help our novice gardeners continue to have successful gardening experiences in future years.

• Keep your Landscape Area Sanitized

Keep your garden and surroundings clean and free of trash and assorted debris that always seems to accumulate during the growing season. This will improve the landscape appearance and just as importantly, eliminate places where pests and diseases can survive over the winter.

• Maintain Healthy Soil

Testing the landscape garden soil takes the guesswork out of maintaining the landscape garden in optimum condition for plant growth. Very simply, various plants have different nutrient and acidity (PH) requirements. To better understand what is needed, a soil test will inform you which nutrients need to be added by fertilizer to the soil to optimize the growth of the various plants in your gardens. By not adding unnecessary chemicals to your garden, you will reduce the amount of pollution in the air you breathe.

MSU Extension provides an easy to use soil test self-mailers, which can be purchased at The neat thing about this soil test is MSU Extension will give you recommendations for your landscape gardens if you supply them with specifics on the kind of garden you are having tested. The results will determine your soil texture, pH and provide you with nutrient levels in your soil. Also recommendations for lime and nitrogen you may need to add to your soil (if necessary).

• Watering Correctly

Novice gardeners usually water too much or too little with disappointment as a result. To do a good job with your garden, you need to spend enough time to find out what each of your plant groupings requirements is. As a general rule — although there are some exceptions — a total of an inch of water per week between rain and irrigation should be sufficient for your landscape garden needs. This includes trees and shrubs as well as grass plantings.

Watering should be done in several sessions over the course of a week and will result in more robust plant root systems which in turn will lead to healthier plants. Watering lightly, even more frequently, will lead to shallower roots with the resulting plants more prone to drought and disease problems. Soaker systems are more effective than oscillating lawn sprinklers for watering plants. Using a ground drip soaker will minimize water loss through evaporation and reduce the risk of water soaked leaves which will eventually lead to plant disease.

• Pick the Right Plants to Grow

Picking the right plants to grow in your landscape gardens is not an easy task. It is easy to be overwhelmed with all the choices you have. An excellent choice for the novice gardener is sticking with native plants. Plants that naturally grow in our area and are selected to match the light and soil conditions on your property, will be the most desirable choices. These plants will require less water and have less need for fertilizers and pesticides to remain healthy.

Presently, there are many choices in native plants with varying heights and shapes that are well adapted to our area conditions. For example, MSU has an excellent website reviewing all types of native plants that can be grown in our area, as well as other areas in the rest of Michigan at Natives I have had success with in Montcalm include: coral bells, purple coneflower, columbine, bee balm, black-eyed susan, switchgrass and juneberry trees.   

• Don’t Forget to Mulch

Mulching is a real necessity for your garden. It acts as an insulator for the soil, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Mulch significantly reduces weed growth, retains moisture and minimizes soil erosion. It especially helps in Michigan spring weather by preventing frost damage. Mulched plants will stay put in alternating freezing and thawing weather and will not appear early in brief spring warming periods.

In general, mulch is usually used year round for trees, shrubs and perennials while annuals and vegetables are covered with mulch in the spring. There are many choices for mulch organic materials. Wood chips, shredded bark and straw tend to be the most popular.

• Have a Bug Free Garden Mentality

Most novice gardeners are upset when they see any signs of bugs in their landscape gardens and will usually try to destroy them by any means possible. In actuality, a garden in healthy balance will always have good bugs and bad bugs present. In fact, most of the good bugs in your garden beds keep the bad bugs at bay. They also help pollinate, which is a necessity for most plants and vegetables.

Very few caterpillars, beetles, spiders or worms, for example, are really bad so don’t try to destroy them all. If in doubt use extension sites to research the bugs you encounter to determine whether they are beneficial to your garden.

• Keeping Good Records

As a final, but perhaps the most important tip is to review your past years gardening experience, both good and bad. To do this, I recommend keeping a garden journal — an inexpensive school notebook will work fine — so you have it as a handy reference.

Problems you experience during the year, which plants you grew and where you placed them in your landscape gardens, what you liked and what you didn’t, are all things to consider for your journal. Also important is to list any changes you would like to make for the new growing season.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby that almost everyone can enjoy at many different levels. By following the key tips described above, you will be able to manage most of the common issues you will confront.


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