A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, VIDEO

In the Garden: Asters In Their Natural Habitat

Tina talks about how much taller asters grow when they are in your garden as opposed to the ones in the garden center.

Native Asters put on quite a show this time of year.  Seen along roadsides across the northeastern part of the country asters provide a bold pop of color When other plants and perennials begin to fade into the landscape. They are a staple in many perennial gardens and borders, with clusters of star daisy like flowers.  Colors range from white, pink to  hues of lavender purple and are at the forefront of fall gardens right along side mums, cabbage and winter pansies.

Aster novae-angliae also known as New England aster and novae-belgii, New York asters are North American natives hardy to zones 4-8 and commonly found in your local garden center typically beginning in late August through the fall. They are a key food source for pollinators and wildlife alike.   Late blooming flowers, like asters provide a viable food source necessary to supply much needed energy for pollinators like the monarch butterfly and hummingbirds as they migrate southward.  They are also a pollen source for bees as well, especially honey bees.

In their natural habitat they look different than what you see in local garden centers.  When grown commercially they are typically pruned twice during the summer months to encourage branching to maintain a certain height ranging from six to twelve inches to fourteen inches at the most.  Wild asters can grow up to six feet in height without pruning. They flower effortlessly with a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight and are right at home in container gardens as they are growing in garden beds.  Caring for asters are simple and similar to garden mums.   The key is to plant asters in early fall to establish a healthy root system. They prefer full sun to partial shade.  If grown in shady area of the garden plants tend to be leggy and will need to be staked.  Asters are also drought tolerant and do best in well drained soil and can be susceptible to root rot if planted in heavy wet soil. First year plants don’t need to be fertilized heavily, once they are established  begin fertilizing in early spring.  Add organic compost around the base of the plants and use a balanced fertilizer monthly.  Overall plants are relatively maintenance free and are seldom bothered by pests.  Powdery mildew can occur but is no real threat to the plant.  Spraying an organic fungicide early in the season can help prevent it.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Gardening In The Shade: Easy Tips for Creating A Shady Garden Retreat

Shade Gardens can be as bright and colorful as a sunny garden even with 5 or less hours of direct sunlight. For many people the frustration results from not planting the right plants in the right location.  Another common misconception is that shade gardens don’t have color or flowers, not true. With a little creativity a shady garden can be as colorful as a sunny garden, starting with the right plants.  But before you can plant get to know your yard.

Take a look around your outdoor space. Become aware of where the sun rises and sets.  See how the sun plays upon certain areas of the garden at different times of the day.  You may find areas that are shaded but have dappled sunlight in the morning or indirect light in the late afternoon.  This can make the difference between plants that need partial sun to full shade.  If you have bare spots under trees where grass no longer thrives consider adding a perennial border, they are easy to grow and require little maintenance.

The next step is to assess the condition of the soil.  I recommend testing your soil to determine whether it is acid or alkaline.  You can purchase an at home testing kit or send a sample off to your local government extension office to get an in-depth analysis of your soil.  Knowing what nutrients your soil needs is a big part of how successful plants will grow in a specific area.  Soil in shaded areas can tell two different stories.  It can be extremely dry, especially underneath mature trees and too moist in locations where drainage is poor.  Adding compost helps to condition and break down soil and improve drainage.

A shade garden is a great way to experiment with colors, tones and textures.  When designing the garden keep colors light, avoid plants with dark foliage, bright colors like lime green, and variegated leaves can brighten up dark areas.  Dark foliage plants are usually offset by white flowers and work when planted against bright green foliage or flowering Astilbe.

Pink Astilbe ‘Rhineland’ offsets dark purple foliage

Hosta is one of the most popular shade plants and for good reason.  It looks best when planted in full shade. It’s  stalks of fragrant lavender or white trumpet flowers are the perfect accent to the large heart shaped leaves.  Planting Hosta in the sun does not capture its beauty.  Leaves become burned and color looses intensity.  When Choosing Hosta go for large leaf varieties like Sum and Substance.  It’s large display of lime green leaves is show stopper.  Colors range from blue and lime greens as well as variegated.  Perennial varieties of Heuchera, offer a wide range colors to add depth and texture, with their scalloped and ruffled leaves. Fern varieties are great texture and Astible can provide both flowering color and texture.

Hydrangea arborescens, ‘Annabelle’ , Hygrangea quercifolia, ‘Oakleaf ‘ provide big white blooms and thrive in full shade. These are some of the plants and shrubs for shade, just to name a few.  I suggest you do your research before you head out to the garden center to buy plants.  Other design tips to consider are planting flowering perennials that bloom in succession. You want to have a colorful blooming garden from spring to fall.

‘Annabelle Hydrangeas

Remember it’s your garden in the shade, follow your inner designer and don’t forget to add a bench or garden to seat so you can stop, sit and admire your hard work.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, inthegarden, VIDEO

In the Garden: What plants attract butterflies?

Tina visits the outdoor butterfly space at the Camden Children’s Garden.

You may think it is too late to plant flowers to attract butterflies to your garden, but not true.

Adding flowers in the garden now will bring butterflies to your garden for many seasons to come. Late summer and fall is the perfect time to add plants to your garden. Plants have plenty of time to settle in before winter. Typically fall can turn rainy, which is ideal for newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials to establish. Another perk of planting now is that there is still a good selection of plants to choose from at your local garden center. Late flowering perennials are ideal to add now to extend your garden blooms to the first frost.

To start building your butterfly garden you want to do research and find out what flowers butterflies are attracted to. Typically butterflies like sun loving plants. Find a location that receives an adequate amount of direct sunlight, 6 to 8 hours is ideal. Once that is established you can make your plant list. Butterflies not only love sunny plants but they are attracted to sweetly scented flowers in red, yellow, pink and purple. Flowers are usually flat topped or have clusters of tubular shaped flowers.

You want to have a good mix of host and nectar plants both annual and perennial. Host plants are important to include in the garden providing a place for butterflies to lay their eggs and caterpillars to feed on. Naturally different host plants attract different butterflies.

I recommend doing a little extra research if you are looking to attract a certain type of butterfly to your garden. Host plants like Asclepias tuberosa, Parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace, Fennel, Hollyhocks and Shasta Daises are a good place to start.

Nectar plants are equally important to provide food for the adult butterflies. Planting a wide variety of nectar plants will invite a wide range of butterflies. Native plants like Joe Pye Weed and Aster can serve as both host and nectar plant. Other popular native perennials are Coneflower, Phlox, Salvia, and Heliopsis False Sunflower. Butterfly Bush is a popular choice for butterfly gardens because of its sweet fragrance and abundant nectar, but is not native to North America. It originates from Asia and has been labeled by some to be an invasive weed.

A few design tips to consider when planting.

Create large masses of colors and flowers together in large areas. Butterflies tend to linger longer when there is a wide range of flowers and colors. Combine Ornamental grasses with flowering perennials and annuals. Varieties of Panicum virgatum, Switchgrass provide structure as well being a host plant for Skipper caterpillars. Add a water source and resting place in the garden. A shallow saucer filled with water and a few flat stones make inviting resting places for visiting butterflies. Refrain from using any pesticides in the garden and don’t worry about weeds. If you do not mind a wild looking garden keep weeds like thistle and clover around both are considered host plants as well.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, inthegarden, VIDEO

In the Garden: Visiting the Butterfly House

Tina visits the Butterfly House with Jeff Clarke from the Camden Children’s Garden and they discuss their life cycle and what plants attract butterflies.


Butterflies, butterflies and more butterflies!

We can’t get enough of the beautiful and mysterious insects that dance in our gardens with their brightly colored wings. We watch intently to see how they feed from one flower to another as we snap an iphone photo for our Instagram page. Our social media feeds are filled with photos from friends and family who have captured them fluttering about.

This has become a common summer time activity, at least I know it has for my family and friends, including myself. But if you are not quick enough to snap a photo and want an up close and personal look at butterflies, head over to the Camden Children’s Garden in Camden, New Jersey, this weekend. They have a butterfly house you won’t want to miss.

The butterfly house is a greenhouse that is home to several species of primarily North American butterflies with up to a hundred butterflies flying around inside. It is a place where adults and children alike can interact with the butterflies. The house is filled with cut flowers from from the outdoor butterfly garden. Be prepared to have an intimate look at these creatures once you choose to pick up a flower from the Butterfly Bush. While I was there I became acquainted with a beautiful Monarch and a Pipevine Swallowtail.

The Pipeline Swallowtail is unique with it’s black body and shiny blue color with white spots on it’s wings. Its host plant is Dutchman’s Pipevine, that blooms in June producing plum speckled flowers in the shape of a pipe. It is tender vine in this region and generally overwintered indoors during the coldest month. Other species include the Zebra Longwing and White Peacock butterfly, just to name a few. The butterflies in the house are not harvested or caught from the wild, instead they are farm raised. The actual life cycle for the butterflies can be about ten days. Seven days is the usual life span in the wild, but in a controlled environment where they are safe from predatory insects the lifespan is a little longer.

The key to cultivating butterflies is to increase their habitat. Planting the proper host plants for them, like Asclepias for Monarchs can attract them to your garden. In fact, native Milkweed can be found growing wild throughout much of the gardens. It provides a place for the Monarch caterpillar to lay their eggs. Planting one or two different species is ideal when mixed with a few host plants to provide nectar for the adults to feed from.

The Butterfly house at the Camden Children’s Garden doesn’t disappoint. If you are unsure why everyone is fussing over an insect then take a trip to the gardens to see the beauty and joy they bring to children and even adults. You will also learn how to attract and keep butterflies for you to enjoy in your own garden. Who knows, you may even make a new colorful friend or two.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, GARDENMINUTE, inthegarden, VIDEO

In The Garden: Camden Children’s Garden

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

It’s summertime in the garden, filled with flowers and vegetables.

Days are spent weeding, deadheading, harvesting and of course relaxing in the garden oasis you’ve created. If this daily routine is becoming a little too boring it may be time to get out and explore some of the display gardens in and around your area.

One of my favorite summer activities, especially late summer is to take a road trip to local gardens. Public gardens are a great resource for education and inspiration. It gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of plants and how they are used in the landscape. With so many great gardens to choose from I thought the Camden Children’s Garden is an ideal choice.

Located in Camden, New Jersey, the gardens are situated on 4 acres of land.

Valerie Frick, the director of education, tells me the gardens were started in June 1999. “It was born out of the Camden City Garden club, which is a community garden that has been in existence since 1985.”

The primary focus of the gardens and the children’s garden movement was to have a place where kids can run and play throughout nature. Frick says there are no rules in the garden, “It is important to have a fun place for children to do things that children like to do, climb, run, jump, play, explore and discover.”

The children’s garden movement wants to ensure that at a young age the children become familiar with horticulture. By encouraging them to walk on the grass and touch the plants they can feel free to explore and learn. Frick also states, “What children learn when they are young gets carried over to when they become adults.”

Some of the display gardens you will see are inspirations from a group of local landscape designers and gardeners. They even included ideas from the children in Camden County. Frick tells me they went into the Camden County school district and asked the children what would they want to see in a perfect garden. One very memorable request from a child was to walk on water, another was to have dinosaurs in the garden. Both are reflected in the interactive water fountain garden and dinosaur garden where they can learn about dinosaur bones found in New Jersey.

Other requests came from teachers wanting to bring story books to life. It was also important that the gardens reflect the important programs in the schools like educating children on how to grow vegetables in an indoor space. Frick says, they wanted to tie in the work they do in the community with the work they do in the gardens. They are a non-profit organization and operate on grants to keep the gardens going.

The Camden Children’s Gardens is an amusement park dedicated to the thrill of growing plants and vegetables. They even have their own garden themed merry-go-round. For more information go to www.camdenchildrensgarden.org.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, GARDENMINUTE, inthegarden, VIDEO

In the Garden: Caring for Annuals and Hanging Baskets

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

For many gardeners, keeping their plants looking happy and healthy during the hot summer months can be a challenge, especially container gardens and hanging baskets.

Longer days result in plants like annuals to grow rapidly. Which is ideal since gardeners from the seasoned pro to the novice use them as their go-to flower of the season. Known for their ability to put on the ultimate show of color from May to the first frost of the fall season, proper watering, fertilizer and grooming are key to their overall health and wellness. But if you are not sure when and how much you should water and fertilize, you could be leaving your plants looking leggy, burned-out and out of bloom.

Watering plants outdoors is very different than watering indoors. There are many different environmental factors sun, temperature, the amount of rain and even wind play a roll in how fast plants dry out. Watering containers and hanging baskets are the most common. They need attention almost daily during an extremely hot and dry summer. Water in the morning if possible. Avoid over head watering during the middle of the day. Sun can burn the leaves of certain plants when water droplets sit on leaves. Invest in a watering wand, my go-to tool. Perfect for hand watering it allows you to control where the water goes, especially if you don’t want leaves to wet on certain plants.

Start a fertilizing regime. Scheduling fertilizer applications will make it easy to remember when to apply. For blooming annuals you want to ensure that they keep blooming. I recommend using a blossom booster fertilizer. It is higher in Phosphorous, which is as essential to plants as Nitrogen and Potassium. Promoting bud initiation and increased blooming a concentration of 10-30-20 is ideal. If your go to fertilizer is an all purpose 20-20-20 you may want to consider switching out a few times for a bloom booster.

I recommend choosing a day and sticking to it that way you know when the last application was. Fertilize weekly according to the recommendations on the package. This will help avoid any mistakes, like over fertilizing, which can lead to burned-out plants.

Don’t forget to groom annuals and perennials as well during the summer. Grooming is cleaning and deadheading. Remove any yellow and brown leaves as well as spent blossoms to rejuvenate and encourage new growth. This will keep plants looking as fresh as the day you brought them home from the garden center.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, GARDENMINUTE, inthegarden, VIDEO

In the Garden: Garden Art and Sculpture

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

In recent years gardens have become an extension of our homes.

In essence, the yard patio and deck have become outdoor rooms and people are spending more time perfecting and decorating these areas. Adding garden decor is another creative way to boost interest in your garden, enhancing what you already have.

Adding various architectural elements like garden benches, sculptures and containers, along with easy-to-add elements that include solar lights, can help define the space.

Garden furniture, specifically benches, are not a new concept. It can help define the garden space and provide a destination for anyone visiting your garden. Find an area in the garden with a wide open view to enjoy or place the bench along a pathway under a pergola giving visitors to your garden a destination. Garden benching can reflect your personality, depending upon the material and style you choose. Add a pop of color with a brightly colored bench. Natural materials like stone are great to add in a garden bed doubling as a piece of sculpture as well. Whether you have a formal garden with straight lines or a curvilinear garden there is a garden bench waiting for you to take a seat on.

Garden statues and containers are another way to boost visual interest in the garden. Sculptures can give the element of surprise when used in garden bed. Place them where you may not have an abundance of plant material or tucked under taller perennials and lower growing shrubs.

Containers, on the other hand, are multi functional. Nowadays you can find large glazed pottery. These urns are modern and formal and can be placed in the garden as a focal point. The beauty of theses giant pots are you don’t have to fill them with plant material. If you use smaller potted containers in the garden along the patio or pathway always cluster in groups of three in varying sizes making the display more visually appealing.

Quick and easy elements to add to the garden include whimsical garden stakes that are colored solar lights perfect for guiding you on a nightly garden stroll. More traditional solar lights can outline garden beds and pathways as well as accenting a piece of garden art you want to highlight. When adding anything to your garden always remember to have fun. The outdoors is a space to feel relaxed, it is your very own sanctuary.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, VIDEO

Butterfly gardens needed to bring back declining insect population

For many people, gardeners and nature lovers alike butterflies have been an important part of the outdoor environment we live in.

These mystical creatures fluttering through our gardens have captured the attention of collectors for centuries, spending endless hours studying the growth cycles, flight patterns as well as the patterns on their wings.

In many cultures butterflies have a great deal of symbolism of hope and love as well as rebirth. In recent years the numbers of native butterflies have been decreasing, especially the Monarch butterflies. I wanted to know how home gardeners can help increase the population in our gardens.

I recently caught up with John Dailey of SkyRiver Butterflies at his traveling butterfly exhibit to talk butterfly cultivation. I even had the opportunity to help release a few for the exhibit.

Sky River Butterflies it the largest traveling butterfly exhibit in the world, with about 1,500 to 2,000 butterflies in the exhibit. The main objective is to educate people on their life cycle and how to cultivate more butterflies in our won gardens.

“People have to understand that butterflies are very short-lived creatures. It takes 40 to 60 days from egg to adulthood. Typically they will live from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks.” They are dependent on their life cycle to reproduce. The opportunities for butterflies to reproduce are decreasing due to the amount of toxins being used in the agriculture industry. The host plants where they need to lay their eggs are not as available as they once were.

The key to bringing back butterflies like the Monarch is the right host plants, according to Dailey. The host plant is the plant to attract the larvae or caterpillars to the garden. For Monarch butterflies it is Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Asclepias incarnata is a herbaceous perennial native to North America found in wet swampy areas. It can survive in a backyard garden as long as the soil doesn’t dry out. The Swallowtail butterflies have a long list of host plants depending upon the species. The Swallowtail caterpillars need pipevine plants.

“Each butterfly has a specific host plant. You want to surround those plants with high nectar plants,” he said. High nectar plants produce sugars that adult butterflies feed from. Studies have been done on to what exactly butterflies are attracted in terms of types of plants and colors. One plant in particular is Gomphrena, commonly known as Globe Amaranth. It is a wild flower that produces lots of nectar that attracts all butterflies. Plants like Dahlias are another great nectar plant. You want to look for plants with flowers that have a short neck, making feeding easier for the butterfly.

“Monarch populations used to be measured in billions, now it is measured in millions,” stressed Dailey. By adding a few simple native plants to our gardens we can help restore those numbers.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

March Gardening To Do List

crocusSpring arrives March 20, it is time to get out and garden!  Here is what you need to do to get ready!

1) Check houseplants for insects.  Take a thorough look at the leaves for any sticky residue, or any discoloration on the leaves from scale, mealy bugs and mites.  Control with Insecticidal soap or a pyrethrum based pesticide.

2) Rotate houseplants a 1/4 turn each week and mist 2-3 timer per week.

3) Start feeding houseplants, weekly with a 10-15-10 fertilizer.

4) Prune Fruit Trees, if you have not already. Apply Horticultural Oil to control pre-emerging insects before the first sign of leaf growth appears.

5) March 17, time to plant your peas.

6) Plant cool season vegetables, like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and arugula.

7)  Mulch strawberries with straw.

8) Dig and Divide perennials

9)  Apply a pre-emergent herbicide, Step 1 to control crab grass.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Pruning Shrubs And Trees In Winter

You may not think of winter as the time to head outside and start pruning your trees and shrubs.  The fact is late winter is the perfect time to start thinking about gardening chores, like pruning.   Now trees and shrubs are dormant, many woody plants drop their leaves in fall and are not actively growing.  Rejuvenate trees and shrubs by pruning to remove dead, diseased wood and crisscrossed branches. This benefits the plants structure and appearance keeping them looking healthy.

Here are a few trees and shrubs to prune now:

Ornamental Pear

Locust

Plums

Crabapples

Fruit trees. Prune fruit bearing in late February and early March. Remove any dead wood or branches that have crossed or growing straight towards the center of the tree.  Apple, pear and cherry trees should have an open canopy.

Juniper

Spruce

Cypress

Shrubs:

Barberries

Boxwood

Camellias, after blooming

Crepe Myrtle

Rose Of Sharon

Holly, prune early winter

Yew

Roses, like Hybrid tea and floribunda should be pruned in early spring, just before plant breaks dormancy. Shrub roses and Knockout roses can benefit from this as well.

Hydrangea paniculata and arborescens, bloom off of new wood.  Hydrangea macrophylla blooms off the previous years growth as well as new wood growth.

Pruning tips:

  1. Use sharp shears that are cleaned and sanitized to avoid spreading any disease.
  2. Remove diseased wood immediately.
  3. Make cuts at an angle and close to the collar of the tree.  This will keep insects out that can carry disease and harm the tree.
  4. Remove crossing branches.  Cut off the smaller branch
  5. Remove thin and spindly looking branches.  This helps to thin out the tree or shrub opening it up for more light and wind to pass through.
  6. Remove suckers growing from the trunk of tree.
  7. Cut shoots growing straight up towards the center of the tree off of bark or branches, ‘water sprouts.’
  8. Avoid pruning in fall.  Plants are still growing in the fall.  Pruning stimulates  growth in plants who are otherwise winding down their growing season and preparing for dormancy.   Freezing temps can injure plants pushing new growth.

Prune spring flowering shrubs like azaleas, lilacs, rhododendron, and viburnum are pruned when done blooming.

Other trees and shrubs to prune in spring and summer:

Pine

Birch

Dogwood

Walnut

Maple

Elm

Hydrangea macrophylla