Choosing Plants for Next Spring

2015-02-04 09.33.35

The winter months are sometimes very difficult for a horticulture enthusiast. There is nothing for us to grow and we can’t go outdoors and do much in our garden beds, so we start to get a bit of cabin fever. However, there is always something to do in January for our gardens because the plant catalogs have begun to arrive. Hooray! We can start planning our gardens for the next season. A great listing of plants to utilize in your garden would include the All American Selections and the Perennial Plant of the Year.

The All American Selection (AAS) group is “the only non-profit plant trialing organization in North America” according to their website. This is a selection organization that is unbiased because all proceeds go into the trials and promoting all AAS winners. Each year the group selects many different judges and judging sites. These judges are professional horticulturists who are volunteering their time to evaluate plants for their growth, flowering or fruiting, and how well they adapt to different environmental conditions. Often times, Universities and public gardens are potential judging sites to keep the results impartial. The AAS is a good way to test new cultivars throughout North America to help gardeners trust the plants they purchase.

Each year the group chooses multiple annuals, perennials, and vegetables to be All American Selections. For 2017, the group came up with a great group of annuals, vegetables, and perennials. The one perennial that was chosen for 2017 was Twizzle Purple Penstemon.

2017-penstemon-barbatus-twizzle-purple-aas-website

This photo of Twizzle Purple Penstemon is from the All American Selection website at: http://all-americaselections.org/product/penstemon-barbatus-twizzle-purple/

Penstemon plants are great for any garden as they grow tall and upright and have flowers similar to snapdragons because they are in the same plant family. Twizzle purple is a new penstemon with vibrant purple flowers. The judges liked the upright habit of the plant and the overall great flowering performance. This penstemon grows up to 35 inches high and is a great pollinator attracting plant.

Another great pollinator plant is the 2017 Perennial Plant of the year, Butterfly Milkweed. This is a plant honor that was chosen by the perennial plant association which is a trade association of growers, retailers, landscapers, educators and others in the herbaceous perennial industry. They choose a plant to showcase each year that is a standout plant. The perennials they choose are widely adaptive and have minimal insect and disease issues with low management inputs. Butterfly milkweed was chosen for the 2017 Perennial Plant of the year to “celebrate an excellent plant known for its ability to support insects and birds and serve as the primary caterpillar food for a beloved North American native butterfly”. That butterfly would be the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs have been decreasing in their population over the past few years due to many different factors, but lack of food is one. Milkweed is the primary source of food for Monarch butterflies and that plant is now reduced in our environment due to the way that we garden and the fact that people regard milkweeds as weeds. Planting pollinator plants will help with the populations.

butterfly-milkweed-dave-powell-usda-forest-service-retired-bugwood

This photo of Butterfly Milkweed is courtesy of Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

Butterfly milkweed is a native plant with small, bright orange colored flowers that are held in bunches throughout the plant. This is not the common milkweed that most people find to be a weed, which is another great pollinator plant. This is a unique and interesting plant that will attract many pollinators to your garden. The plants grow 2-3 feet tall and wide. Butterfly milkweed plants are a great addition to any landscape, but especially in a prairie, native grass area, or naturalized planting.

Advertisements

Fall is a time for Apples and Garlic

Fall is a great time of the year. It can be bittersweet, though, because it often signals the end of our growing season. The good thing is that this is also the time of the year to go pick apples. It is apple month, for tips and recipes on apples, visit the Nebraska Extension October food calendar.

Each different variety of apple differs for their harvest time. To determine the harvest time for the apple, knowing the variety will help you. In fall, a common question from gardeners with a favorite apple or pear tree is for identification of the cultivar from the color and shape of the fruit. This almost impossible to do, in fact, it’s really only realistic to give a general idea of possible cultivars. So, if you don’t know the variety, you can look at the color, flavor, and texture of the apple.

apples-A. Henneman flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

To know a mature apple, look at the “ground color”, which is the color of an apple’s skin disregarding any areas of red. You can also try one to ensure that it is the correct sweetness and make sure it is firm and not overripe and soft. Overripe apples will detach from the tree more easily than those that are at the correct stage of ripeness. If the apple is too ripe, it will break down in storage more quickly than those that are at the peak of their maturity.

For storage it is best to pick apples when they are still hard but mature. Place the apples in a box or crate with a smooth lining so that staples don’t puncture or injure the apple. These boxes or crates should be lined with plastic or foil to retain humidity around the apples. Remove bruised and large apples that will break down more quickly than the rest of the apples. Apples produce ethylene gas, even after they are removed from the tree, which speeds up the ripening process in fruits. A damaged apple will produce more ethylene than other apples. Apples should be stored in the fridge or other location where they are kept at temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, an apple stored too warm will ripen faster.

Fall is also a great time to plant garlic. I love Italian food, so therefore I am a huge fan of fresh garlic. Garlic is best planted from mid-September through mid-October, one month before the soil freezes. The bulbs planted in the fall will root and begin to sprout before going dormant for the winter. Next spring, these bulbs will continue to grow until harvest in the summer months.

garlic-olga-filonenko-flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Olga Filonenko per CC license.

To grow garlic, plant small cloves for each plant you want. The clove is obtained from the division of the large bulb. Planting larger cloves will lead to larger bulbs for harvest next year. Wait until just before you begin planting to divide the bulb into the individual cloves. Plant the cloves 3-5 inches apart, 1-2 inches deep with the point upward in the soil. If you are planting multiple rows, the rows need to be 18-30 inches apart. Before completing your gardening tasks this fall, remember to mulch the planted garlic with 8-12 inches of straw after the soil freezes.

The apple information from this article came from an article written by Mary Jane Frogge, Extension Associate from Lancaster County Extension. The garlic information from this article came from the e-Hort Update at hortupdate.unl.edu which is a newsletter you can sign up for to get more horticulture information throughout the year.

Pirate Bugs are Everywhere!

Fall is a great time of year, the weather is cooler, the trees are turning brilliant fall colors, and we can enjoy being outdoors. However, sometimes that enjoyment is smashed when insect invaders join our outdoor gatherings. The minute pirate bug is one that shows up this time of the year.

minute-pirate-bug-zoomed-kim-riggs-richardson-co

Minute Pirate Bug photo courtesy of Kim Riggs, Richardson County Extension

Minute pirate bugs are the tiny, black insects that seem to fall out of the trees in the fall and bite us. The bug, which is a true bug, is 1/8 inch in length and black with white and black wings. The appearance of this bug is very similar to a chinch bug. The wings have an “X” on them which is typical for insects that are true bugs.

Minute pirate bugs are present throughout the summer but they are out in fields, woodlands, and gardens. During the summer they are feeding on other insects. They are actually a beneficial insect. Pirate bugs are predatory insects that feed on many insects that cause harm to our plants, such as thrips, aphids, mites, and small caterpillars as well as the eggs of other insects.

Most people wouldn’t notice these pirate bugs if they didn’t land on us and bite us. Pirate bugs bite with a pain that doesn’t seem possible from such a tiny insect. However, some people may not notice the sting at all because the reaction to the bite can differ from no reaction at all to having the area swell up like a mosquito bite. But, in the fall, these insects move into the areas where people are more often outside and they begin to bite us. When they bite us, they insert their piercing-sucking mouthpart into our skin, which can be painful. However, the good thing is that they do NOT feed on blood, inject a venom or transmit diseases.

Because of the painful reaction that most of us receive from this pest, we want to do something to control them, however, control is not practical. Minute pirate bugs are a temporary pest, they are beneficial insects, and most of our solutions would not harm them so there is no reason to try to control them with an insecticide. Using a bug spray will not deter them either because they are not attracted to us by carbon dioxide like most other blood-feeding insects such as mosquitos. So, the best control for these pests would be to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and dark colored clothing or to wait patiently for cooler weather when they will no longer be a problem.

ground-beetle-daniel-r-suiter-univ-of-ga-bugwood

Photo of Ground Beetle courtesy of Daniel R. Suiter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

And just as a reminder, this is the time of the year when our insect invaders start to move into our homes. Many of the insects and other arthropods that we see every year are things like boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, ground beetles, centipedes, millipedes, and spiders. All of these do not pose any physical harm to us, spiders can bite but it is rare and usually does not cause much harm. The best controls for these critters would be to use a home barrier spray, sticky traps and to vacuum them up as you see them. These insects and others are moving into our homes with the cooler temperatures to keep warm during the winter.

Planting for Fall Color

Planting for Fall Color

Fall will soon be here, with it comes cooler weather, football, and the changing of color of many of our plants. For fall, there are a few plants that I always look to for a great show of color, this is a short list but there are many more plants for fall color.

Fall color is one of the reasons we all enjoy the season. The leaves turn from green to red, yellow, or orange in the fall due to the pigments present in the leaves. During the spring and summer months, green chlorophyll is the dominant pigment in leaves and this hides the other pigments from view. In the fall, the production of chlorophyll slows down and eventually stops altogether to allow the other pigments to show up in our leaves. The different conditions we see each fall affects the how much and how vivid the colors are in the fall, which is why some years we have better fall color than others. Clear days, cool nights, and dry conditions in the fall promote high quality fall color, according to Iowa State University.

Garden mums or Chrysanthemums are wonderful for fall color. They bloom in August and September in colors such as purple, pink, orange, yellow, white, coral, and deep burgundy or red. They need to be pinched back 2-3 times in June until Independence Day to ensure that they bloom properly in the fall. Some mums have low winter hardiness due to repeated freezing and thawing throughout our winters. If this occurs, add extra mulch around the plants before winter, cut the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall, and discontinue fertilization by the end of July.

Shagbark hickory, flickr, Nicholas A. Tonelli

Shagbark Hickory photo from Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr Creative Commons License

Shagbark Hickory is one of my favorite trees that are underutilized in Nebraska. In the fall this tree turns a brilliant golden-yellow color to help enrich your fall landscape color. The shaggy bark appearance that the older trees grow into is another unique characteristic of this tree. This is a native plant to the region so it will withstand the constantly changing weather that is typical of Nebraska. Also, because it is a hickory tree, it produces a tasty, edible nut that is similar to hickory nuts, making it a great tree choice for nut production and for wildlife.

Burning Bush- 4

Burning Bush in Fall Color

Burning Bush is a terrific large shrub choice for most any landscape. This is a type of shrub that can grow up to 20 feet tall, but there is a compact version that grows up to 10 feet tall. It has a deep glossy green leaf throughout the spring and summer but in the fall it turns a bright red color or pink in shady locations. One problem with Burning Bush, however, is that it is a plant that is susceptible to scale insect. Scale can be controlled when in the crawler stage, typically in the early spring, with an insecticidal soap or Horticulture oil.

There are also a lot of great oak trees that can be planted for great fall color. Red and white oaks turn red in the fall. Bur Oaks turn a yellow color in the fall. Shumard oak is another great oak tree that has reliable red fall color. Oak trees are a great tree choice for Nebraska and their fall color just makes them that much better. They are well adapted for most of the conditions we face in Nebraska and can typically withstand drought conditions fairly well. Plus, their acorns are a huge draw for wildlife for those who enjoy to view deer, squirrels, and other wildlife.

Nebraska Wildflower Week

Wildflowers blog

Nebraska is a wonderful place to live. One of my favorite things in the spring and summer months is to drive around and see all of the beautiful flowers blooming along the roadsides, many of which are wildflowers.

For 2016, Nebraska Wildflower Week will be celebrated June 3rd through June 12th. Nebraska Wildflower Week is observed every year in early June. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum is a coordinator of this event. Wildflower Week is aimed to increase awareness and appreciation of wildflowers and native plants in the wild and in the landscape through an array of events and activities across Nebraska, according to the Statewide Arboretum.

One of the events for the 2016 Nebraska Wildflower Week will be held right here in Beatrice. The Beatrice Public Library will have a display of books and information on wildflowers. They will also have wildflower seedlings that were started by the Gage County Master Gardeners that will be given away for free as long as supplies last. The Seed Library also has a good selection of wildflower seeds and grass seeds available for free as well.

Planting your native and wildflower seeds and native grasses will take a few years of care before the area will become low-maintenance and beautiful. The site for planting needs to be prepared for wildflower planting. For preparation of the site, first apply a glyphosate herbicide, such as Roundup, to kill existing plant material and weeds to help the seedlings germinate better and have less competition. This herbicide should be applied 10-21 days prior to mowing and tilling the area to finish preparing the site for seeding. Seed wildflowers in the spring or in the fall and transplant container-grown plants then as well.

The first couple of years may seem disappointing to you in your new wildflower garden. Those first 2 years you may see no or very limited flower development as the plants need to grow good roots and build the plant up before it can begin growing flowers. The first growing season, you should mow this prairie area 1-3 times at the highest possible height on your lawnmower, waiting at least 1 month between each mowing. In the second year, you may need to mow your prairie one time in the summer. You may need to spot spray weeds during establishment but fertilizers are not necessary and can hinder growth by increasing weed growth and disturbing the natural process of wildflowers. By the third year, you should have a very low-management prairie for your landscape with many native wildflowers. Mow this once a year early in the spring or late in the fall.

Wildflower Collage

Wildflower Photos from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum at: arboretum.unl.edu/wildflower-week

There are a lot of choices for wildflowers. Many locations will feature a seed mix which is a good choice for many different types of wildflowers that are already mixed together for a pleasing display. Bob Henrickson, from the Statewide Arboretum has a list of his top 12 wildflowers for Nebraska. This list includes: Beardtongue (Penstemon), Black-eyed Susan, Compass plant, Desert globemallow, Leadplant, Prairie Larkspur, Plains Coreopsis, Purple poppy mallow, Prairie coneflower, Yellow coneflower (Mexican Hat), Prairie Phlox, and Spiderwort. Any of these would be a great choice for your wildflower prairie. And remember wildflowers are not just for an acreage, they can be planted in a small garden space in town as well.

For more information on Nebraska Wildflower Week, Activities to attend, and a List of places to view Wildflowers, visit: http://arboretum.unl.edu/wildflower-week

 

Trees!!

Arbor Day Blog Post 3

Trees are a wonderful addition to any landscape and have a great deal of benefits. I love trees, all trees! As an ISA Certified Arborist, I have a passion for planting trees and keeping our existing trees healthy. With Arbor Day coming up, it is a great time to begin planting trees.

2016-04-02 10.11.52Trees are vital to our lives. They provide us with oxygen to breathe, they increase the value of our homes, and they make us happy and healthy. There are many great trees to choose from that will do well in Nebraska. If possible, a native tree will do much better in our growing conditions because they are adapted to the weather conditions common in Nebraska. At the very least, the tree you choose must be suited to live in your hardiness zone, Southeast Nebraska is in zone 5b.

Good tree choices include:

2014-06-12 16.10.39

  • White pine
  • Norway spruce
  • Colorado Blue spruce
  • Black Hills Spruce
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Jack Pine
  • Eastern Red Cedar
  • Concolor Fir
  • Douglas Fir
  • Baldcypress
  • Catalpa
  • Gingko
  • Cottonwood
  • River birch
  • Sycamore
  • Linden
  • Kentucky Coffeetree
  • Elm Hybrids
  • Maples
  • Oaks
  • Tree Lilac
  • Hackberry
  • Black walnut
  • Shagbark Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Chestnut
  • Sweetgum
  • Chanticleer or Cleveland Select Pear (not Bradford)
  • Serviceberry
  • Honeylocust (thornless)
  • Redbud
  • Black Locust
  • Pawpaw
  • Horsechestnut

When looking for trees for your landscape, remember to utilize diversity. Increasing species diversity prevents us from “putting all our eggs in one basket” and prohibits any single insect or disease from destroying a community’s entire forest resource. Pine wilt, Dutch elm disease and the approaching emerald ash borer (EAB) all reinforce the importance of species diversity. In fact, forestry experts recommend that no single species make up more than 10 percent of the entire community forest resource. This comes from the ReTree Nebraska page. ReTree Nebraska is an affiliate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that focuses on “raising public awareness of the value of trees and reverse the decline and improve the sustainability of community trees and forests”. ReTree has been working on a list of great trees for Nebraska, each year adding more trees to that list. In 2016, they added American Linden to that list.

For care of any tree, water is a vital element to health and growth. Always water newly planted trees, shrubs, or any other plant immediately after planting. Trees should be watered every 10-14 days throughout the growing season and even some during the winter on warmer days. Each watering should give the tree 1-2 inches of water. The best way to determine if a tree needs to be watered is to insert a soil probe or 12-inch-long screwdriver into the ground around the tree. If it goes in easily there is no need to water, if it is difficult at any point then water is necessary for the tree.

tree mulchA mulch ring should be established and maintained around every tree. Mulch helps to keep the roots cool in the summer and regulated to a uniform temperature through the winter rather than the temperature fluctuations we often see during the winter months. Mulch will also help keep weeds down and reduce competition from those weeds for water and nutrients. Mulch also reduces damage to the trunk of trees from lawn mowers and trimmers. Finally, mulch is a way to hold moisture for use later by the tree. Mulch rings should be only 2-3 inches deep and in a circle around the tree at least 2-3 feet out. Organic mulches are a better choice than inorganic mulches. This mulch will need to be renewed every 1-2 years to maintain an effective layer because it will break down and improve the soil over the growing season.

 

Plants For Spring

Plants for Spring Gardens-Canva

Well we are back to a new year and hopefully 2016 will be a great year for you all. One of my favorite things about a new year is getting excited to start planting again. Now, obviously we can’t go out and plant in our gardens right now, but we can start to determine what we will plant this spring to add new interest to our gardens. A great place to start would be the “Great Plants for the Great Plains”.

The Great Plants program is developed by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. It is a program to bring superior ornamental landscape plants into gardens to meet the challenging growing conditions of the Great Plains, according to their website. This program helps to increase diversity in our landscapes and encourages homeowners to plant with underutilized plant material.

The members of the arboretum choose a tree, conifer, shrub, perennial, and grass selection for each year. This year, the group has chosen

  • American hornbeam for the tree
  • Ponderosa pine for the conifer
  • New Jersey Tea for the shrub
  • Fremont’s primrose for the perennial
  • ‘Dallas Blues’ switchgrass for the grass.

2016 Great Plants Collage

Try incorporating these unique and great plants into your landscaping this spring.

Other good plant choices would include the 2016 All American Selections. These are selections that were tested for their performance by impartial judges. The plants chosen as National winners are selected based on the fact that they perform best over all of North America. There are also regional winners that perform best in certain regions. The varieties chosen for the 2016 National Winners include:

  • Brocade Cherry Night Geranium
  • Brocade Fire Geranium
  • Japanese Red Kingdom Mustard
  • Cornito Giallo Pepper
  • Escamillo Pepper
  • Strawberry Delizz F1 Strawberry
  • Candyland Red Tomato
  • Chef’s Choice Green Tomato
  • The regional winner from the Heartland, which includes Nebraska, is Summer Jewel Lavender Salvia

These are some unique and fun choices of plants that can be added to your garden and your cooking. Try growing some of these with your children or grandchildren as a fun way to introduce them to gardening.

You can also look at seed catalogs and local seed sources to find fun, new varieties for your landscape and vegetable garden. January is an exciting time for any horticulturist as the new seed catalogs start coming in the mail in January and February. If you aren’t receiving any seed catalogs in the mail you can go online to sign up for a catalog, most of them are free. Just go to your favorite seed company and request their catalog. Good choices include

  • Burpee
  • Jung
  • Johnny’s
  • Gurney’s
  • Stock Seed Farm

Take the time now, while it is too cold to go outside, to plan out your gardens and determine what you will plant in the space you have available. Remember to always follow the guidelines for spacing in your gardens to help avoid disease and insect issues. It might be helpful to draw out what you will plant. Your drawing does not have to be to scale, just so you get the actual distances and the spacing of the plants you choose. We may not be able to get outside and get planting just yet, but we can start to plan for the spring while we are stuck in the house.

Pumpkins

Gourds

The trees are beginning to turn beautiful fall colors, the leaves are beginning to fall, and scary movies are starting to come back into the theatres. This must mean Halloween is on its way.

The best part of Halloween, to me, is the pumpkins. I love the smell of a freshly carved pumpkin and the look of the carved pumpkins on my front steps lit up for Halloween night. Pumpkins can be used for a variety of things throughout October and November and they can be grown in your garden right in your own backyard.

Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbit family of garden plants, which includes cucumbers, squash, gourds, watermelons, cantaloupes, and zucchini. We can use them for eating, roasting the seeds, and carving for a Halloween decoration. We can also store them and use them for Thanksgiving decorations.

Flickr image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan per CC license

Flickr image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan per CC license

If you grow pumpkins in your garden, it is now time to begin harvesting them, if you haven’t already started. Pumpkins can be harvested when they are mature in color and when they have a firm rind, when your fingernail does not puncture the rind when lightly pushed into it. It is best to remove all pumpkins prior to or within 1-2 days after a killing frost. Cut pumpkins off of the rind leaving 3-4 inches of stem on the pumpkin to help them resist organisms that lead to decay.

After the pumpkins are harvested, they should be cured to last longer in storage. Leave pumpkins in an area where they receive 80-85 degree temperatures with 80-90 percent relative humidity for 10 days. Pumpkins will store if not cured, but they will store longer, up to 3 months, if they are cured first. After cured, they are best stored in areas of 50-55 degree temperatures.

It is best to use the correct pumpkin for the task, such as using a jack-o-lantern pumpkin for carving and a processing pumpkin for making pies. Both types of pumpkins can be used for either activity, but they work better if you get the right type for the task at hand. However, you do not want to carve a pumpkin and use it for Halloween and then use it for making a pumpkin pie. A carved pumpkin is a perishable item, therefore cannot be used for baking or cooking if it has been left out, after being carved into, for more than 2 hours.

2014-10-30 19.13.41

Many people are concerned about the length of time a carved pumpkin will last on their front porch. The problem is that there isn’t a good treatment to get them to hold that carving for very long. The best idea is to wait until no more than one week before Halloween until you carve your pumpkin. It is best for the carving if you can do it as close to Halloween as possible. Another thing that will help with longevity of a pumpkin for Halloween is to ensure that you purchase or pick a pumpkin in good condition. Avoid pumpkins with soft spots, signs of decay, short stems, and other signs to show that decay has already begun in the pumpkin. If decay is already present in the pumpkin before you carve into it, it will ruin your carving that much sooner. If the weather is warm outside, store the pumpkins in a cool area until Halloween to keep the carving intact. Hopefully all of these tips can help you grow a great pumpkin and have a great pumpkin for Halloween. Happy Halloween!

Plants for Shade

Fall is finally here. We can look forward to cooler weather, more things to do in the lawn and garden, and football. Fall is a great time to plant a tree. When planting that tree, remember to plant it correctly and utilize the correct plants and mulches underneath the tree.

2013-06-03 14.51.07

Trees are vital to life. They change Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen for us to breath in. They are also a great advantage to our landscapes. Trees give us shade to reduce our cooling bills, block winds to reduce our heating bills, increase the value of our homes, and make us happier. Research has proven that hospital patients with a view of greenspace heal quicker than those without a view of landscaping.

When planting a tree, choose one that is well suited for our environment and for your particular needs of the tree, i.e. shade, flower, fruit, height, etc. Remember to check for clearance as that tree will grow, read the label for mature height and check for power lines and other objects that would impede the natural growth. Dig the hole to be twice as large and only as deep as the rootball that your tree has. Remove all burlap, twine, and wires from the rootball and backfill around the rootball with the soil that was removed for the hole. Water the tree in well after planting and if staking is used, make sure that it is loose around the tree and it is only left on for one growing season.

Even though trees are great to have in our landscapes, they can cause problems to the turfgrass growing underneath. Turf is not the best option to grow under heavy shade of trees as it constantly faces pressure from weeds and diseases and thins out quickly and often. Shady areas of your landscape do not have to be the part of your landscape that you have to constantly deal with, it can be a place to enjoy shade tolerant plants and escape from the sun on hot days outdoors.

There are many great plant choices for shade. To determine what will grow best in your shade location, you need to know just how shady the site is. You need to know when and how long the area is in sun and when and how long it is in shade. It might be necessary to re-visit the site several times during the day to document when and where the sun is received as the day progresses.

Just knowing that the area is in shade during the day does not give us enough information to know which plants will grow best in the area. It is also important to know whether the sun a plant receives is in the morning or in the afternoon. The intensity of the sun in these locations would differ greatly. For example, plants such as azaleas, holly, and clematis grow healthier in morning sun than they would in afternoon sun, even if the total hours of sunlight were the same.

Great choices for plantings of shady areas include the following

Shade perennial Collage

Perennials

  • Anemone
  • Astilbe
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bergenia
  • Columbine
  • Foxglove
  • Coral Bells
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit
  • Helleborus
  • Toad Lily
  • Virginia Bluebells
  • Hostas
  • Hydrangea

shade groundcovers Collage

Ground Covers

  • Bugleweed
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Vinca
  • Purple leaf wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’)

Shade shrubs Collage

Shrubs

  • Alpine Currant
  • Chokeberry
  • Cotoneaster
  • Red twig, yellow twig, Cornelian Cherry, and Gray Dogwoods
  • Ninebark
  • Privet
  • Snowberry
  • Coralberry

As you can see, there are many different plants that can be planted underneath trees that will actually grow much better than turfgrass that will struggle and compete with weeds throughout the growing season. With any landscaping bed or area surrounding a tree, a nice layer of 2-3 inches of organic mulch, such as woodchips, will benefit the area by helping to conserve moisture, keep temperatures consistent, and combatting weeds.

2nd Annual Gage County Master Gardener Tour

2015-08-17 09.23.00

On Monday, August 17th, I took the Gage County Master Gardeners and some fun guests on our 2nd Annual Gage County Master Gardener Tour. It was a rainy day, but we still managed to have a great time and learn some things on the way. It is such a joy for me to get to work with these wonderful people all the time because they are so eager to learn about horticulture and they are so much fun to be around as well!

Stock Seed Farms

Stock Seed Farms

The first stop on the tour was to Stock Seed Farms in Murdock, Nebraska. This was neat to see how they work and how they develop, package, market, and ship out so many different types of wildflower and native grass seed throughout the entire country. It was interesting to hear how they harvest and sort the seeds from all of the “fluff” to get a good Pure Live Seed Number for their packaging so that people are getting mostly seed in their orders without other materials filling the weight. We got to see the equipment they used to sort the seeds and we got to see the enormous amount of seed they had in their facility. I was astonished at the enormous bags of clover seed that most of us are trying to rid from our lawns, but in a naturalized area of an acreage it is a great plant to have. They even had a bag of crabgrass seed that is used in the Southern parts of the United States for a forage plant for horses and other livestock. This was odd for us horticulturists who are working all spring and summer to keep it out of our lawns and gardens. The rain did disrupt our tour a little, as we were not able to go out and see the fields of wildflowers and native grasses, except what we saw from the shed or on the bus ride among the fields Stock Seed Farms owns. It was an enjoyable experience that many of us will never forget.

Lauritzen Gardens

Lauritzen Gardens

After lunch in Ashland, we ventured on to Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha. This was an awesome experience. We took the tram tour through the gardens so we were able to see all of the gardens with much less walking. We didn’t get to go through all of the individual gardens this route, but since it was raining, the tram tour was a good choice. The trams were covered so we didn’t get too wet. I enjoyed the Model Train Garden, the small bridges were very unique and well-made. The whole garden was very interesting and it could take an entire day to thoroughly get through it all. We definitely didn’t have enough time there, but it was still great to get to see some of it and see how many different types of plants available to Nebraska growers. The best part is that it is always growing as the tour discussed with us future plans for new gardens.

HOPE Gardens

HOPE Gardens

Finally, we were able to join up with the Douglas County Master Gardeners at their HOPE Gardens. The HOPE garden was started in 2003 by Nebraska Extension in partnership with Faithful Shepherd Presbyterian Church as a vegetable garden project to Help Omaha’s People Eat (H.O.P.E.). This garden provides fresh produce to the Heartland Hope Mission food pantry in Omaha. In 2014, the garden produced over 9,000 pounds of fresh produce that was donated to this city mission. It was a very interesting garden to tour. The Master Gardeners who work on this garden work very hard!! They start all the plants from seed in their homes and they planted a lot of crops! They have all types of different vegetables, fruits, and now a pollinator garden to help with pollination. Everyone needs fresh produce!

2015 MG Tour Rainbow Collage

The day was a huge success!! Great fun and we learned a lot. Plus, the day ended beautifully, after all the rain all day, we saw a full, double rainbow on the way home. I was able to catch a photo of it, but seeing it in person was much better. Thanks to all of the great Master Gardeners and guests for making this day fun! Hopefully we can find some great places to go next year, I know that the participants are already starting to come up with ideas for another trip next year.