Yard and Garden: June 28, 2019

Yard & Garden blog, 2019

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 28, 2019. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 2, 2019. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Dave Olson, Forest Health Specialist from the Nebraska Forest Service

1. The first question of the show was about a red twig dogwood that is overgrown. Can it be pruned now?

A. It would be better to wait until fall to prune it. It can be thinned by removing 1/3 of the canes at ground level. This type of pruning can be done every year to remove the oldest, least productive canes from the plant. You can also do a rejuvenation pruning on it by cutting the whole plant off 6-8 inches above ground level in the fall. This will help to bring back a deep red color in the stems that may have faded over the years. If you rejuvenate it this fall, it will not bloom next year, but should after that.

2. A caller has a couple of blue spruce trees with low hanging branches. Can those branches be removed now to make it easier to mow around?

A. Yes, you can remove those lower branches for mowing around. That can be done most anytime, but it is best in the late winter while the tree is still dormant.

3. This caller has green ash suckers that are growing up in her gooseberry bush. These have come from an ash tree that was removed a few years ago but is still suckering. What can be done to kill the ash seedlings and not harm the gooseberry bush?

A. It might help to get someone to grind out the ash stump to help fully kill the tree. If the stump is still there, the roots are likely still alive and doing what they can to bring the tree back, which includes suckering in other locations. Otherwise, you can just keep cutting the suckers off and eventually the roots will run out of energy. You could also cut back these suckers and paint the fresh cut with a roundup or glyphosate product.

4. A caller has gray bugs with long black antennae that are found in her garden. What are these and how can they be controlled?

A. These bugs could be blister beetles. They can sometimes come into our gardens. Certain years, they can be found in high population. If they are feeding on your garden plants, you can spray with some sevin or eight to control them.

She also wanted to know what would cause her iris leaves to turn yellow with brown spots in the yellow color?

A. This is likely from Iris Leaf Spot, a common fungal disease of Iris plants. This can be controlled fairly well by removing and destroying the infected plant material as it shows up. When watering, don’t water over the foliage which will spread the disease. If necessary, a fungicide such as Daconil can be used if sanitation isn’t enough.

5. This caller is trying to re-establish a new windbreak. For a quick windbreak solution, would the quick growing willow-type trees work well?

A. Willows and other very fast growing trees would not work as a windbreak, even temporarily. The fast growth in these trees would not be very strong growth and therefore it would break a lot in windy situations. It would be better to go with a larger shrub such as a viburnum or serviceberry to help fill in until the trees can grow up larger. These shrubs would block the winds quicker than some trees but withstand strong winds and storms much better than willows.

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Bindweed

6. What can be done to control bindweed in phlox?

A. Among other plants it is best to use the “glove of death” which is when you wear a chemical-resistant glove and then put a cloth glove over that. Then, dip a few fingers of the gloved hand into Glyphosate and rub those fingers along the stem and leaves of the bindweed to kill it. Basically, the idea is to keep it from flowering and producing more seed, hand pulling will help keep new seed from being deposited into the garden which can be viable for up to 60 years.

7. A caller wants to know if she can use the Extended control Preen on her petunias, they are not listed on the label?

A. If it is not listed on the label, you can’t use that pesticide on that plant. Stick with the general preen that has the petunias on the label to ensure correct application.

8. This caller has a pin oak tree with lower branches that are in the way of mowing. Can those be removed right now?

A. No, it is best to avoid pruning oak trees during the summer months. Oaks are susceptible to a disease called oak wilt that is spread by a beetle. The beetle is attracted to the trees after they have been pruned. Oak wilt can kill the tree if it is introduced to the tree. Wait until the fall or until the trees are dormant or early next spring before April to prune oak trees to avoid this disease.

9. A caller had her driveway lined with small mums that grew only to 1 foot tall. Over time some of them have been dying periodically throughout these lines. What could she switch to that is more winter hardy and stays at the 1 foot tall size?

A. That is a problem with some of our newer mum varieties, they just aren’t as winter hardy as they are advertised to be. The 1 foot tall size is difficult to find, I would suggest a groundcover to stay so small. Most other plants are going to be 2-3 feet tall at least. There would be some nice phlox that would look nice lining a driveway.

10. This caller has an oak tree that was pruned. The pruning is about 20 years old and has recently started oozing. What is wrong with it?

A. The tree could have borers or it could be a slime flux. It would be best to have a Certified Arborist look at the tree to determine what is causing the oozing and what can be done about it.

11. A caller has a mulberry tree with a flower bed underneath the tree. The high number of mulberries are now falling off the tree and rotting on the ground which is attracting flies. Is there anything that can be sprayed to treat for the flies but not harm the tree or the flowers growing underneath?

A. This is difficult since the fruit is already maturing and falling from the tree. If it was caught earlier, the fruits could have been quickly harvested by placing sheets underneath and shaking the branches. Once the fruits are on the sheets, they can be used or destroyed away from the tree if there are too many for consumption. Leaving the fruits to decay around the tree is attracting the flies. Using a sevin around the plants could help reduce the flies, but it won’t eliminate them entirely. Once the fruits have decayed completely, the flies should not be a problem.

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Rust on a Pear tree

12. This caller has an apple tree that gets rust even when they are spraying and then it moves onto their peach tree. What can be done for this disease?

A. Rust is found on apples, crabapples, and pears, but not on peaches. I would say there are 2 different problems. As for the rust, if the timing or chemical formulation is off a bit, the spraying will not work. Be sure to spray the trees with either copper fungicide or orchard fruit tree sprays. These sprays need to be applied every 10-14 days through the growing season starting at bud break, skipping the time frame while the trees are blooming to avoid harming pollinators. As for the peaches, it could be a fruit rot or other disease. The orchard fruit tree sprays will work on those as well, but it would be for a different disease on the peaches, not the rust.

13. A caller has a 6-7 year old apple tree that was girdled all the way around the tree this past winter by rabbits. It seems to still be growing fine, does the death just take a while after damage like this? Will it eventually die?

A. It could be ok, but most likely it won’t live through girdling all the way around the tree. If the damage was minor and the tree is able to seal up the wound, maybe it will be ok. I would say just to keep an eye on the tree and give it time to see if it gets better or worse. If the canopy isn’t full or has top dieback, you would want to remove it before it becomes a hazard.

14. This caller had large hail last week. It hit his vegetable garden. Is there anything he can do for the plants now? Will they survive and produce?

A. This depends on how badly the plants were injured and if the damage is mostly just on the leaves. It is a situation where time will tell, the damage may not be fully present for a while. There is nothing that can be done to fix this type of damage once it gets hailed on.

15. A caller has bare spots in the lawn due to shade under pine trees. What can be done about that?

A. Grass doesn’t grow in the shade. It would be best to use mulch under the trees or try to plant something else that thrives in shade conditions such as carex, sedge, or other groundcover or use shade perennial plants. Remember to plant the right plant in the right place for best growth.

16. This caller has rose with leaves that were eaten off of it. What would do that and how can it be managed?

A. This could be from rose slugs, but the damage sounds worse than what rose slugs do. It could be from Japanese Beetles. Those can be controlled with sevin, bifenthrin, or neem oil applied to the leaves. Be careful to avoid hitting the flowers with insecticide sprays to avoid injuring pollinators.

17. The last caller of the day wants to know how to renovate her strawberry plants?

A. According to John Porter, UNL Extension: She will want to manage weeds, but do nothing to disturb the plants. They should be left to grow until the end of the season. Tilling is okay around the beds, but in the beds hand pulling or minimal cultivation would be ideal to avoid damaging roots. Using a mulch like straw or woodchips can help control weeds in the bed. If the strawberries are a Junebearing variety, they are done producing for the year.  However, if they are a day neutral or everbearing variety they will have more production cycles throughout the season.

 

 

Yard and Garden: June 1, 2018

Y&G Blog Photo, 2018

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 1, 2018. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 3, 2018. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: George Pinkerton, Director of Landscape Maintenance for Downtown Lincoln

1.The first caller of the show wants to know how to control grassy weeds in peonies and in asparagus?

A. In the peony plants, you can spray Grass-b-Gon or another product containing fluazifop-p-butyl to kill perennial and annual grassy weeds. However, this product cannot be used in asparagus. For weed management in asparagus, it is best to use mulch through the season to keep the weeds down. Roundup, or glyphosate, can be sprayed over top of the asparagus in the beginning of the season before the asparagus begins to grow, after harvest once all the stalks have been cut off below the ground level, and at the end of the season after removing the ferns and no green of the asparagus is showing above ground. Preen that is labeled for use in asparagus can be used throughout the season as well to stop the germination of new, annual weeds.

2. This caller has ants on their potatoes and radish with a great deal of damage. What can be done to stop the ants from damaging these plants more?

A. It is likely that the problem is not due to the ants, they are likely there as a secondary issue and they are not eating the potatoes and radish. Grubs will feed on the tubers and other underground structures. They do not typically affect tomato roots or the roots of the other above-ground growing plants. There are no products labeled for grub control in a home vegetable garden. If the grubs are becoming a problem, move the garden next year and treat the area without the vegetables on that area for a year. Treat for grubs in the lawn around the garden to help reduce the population.

3. A caller has had poor pollination in cucumbers in past years. What can he do this year to ensure he has better cucumber production?

A. If there aren’t many bees or butterflies around the garden, it could be low pollination. Try to attract pollinators through additional pollinator garden areas. You can also hand-pollinate these plants with a cotton swab, touching many flowers throughout the plant with the same cotton swab to transfer the pollen throughout.

4. This caller purchased burning bushes in containers and then left for 4 days before getting them planted. Now, the leaves are brown and crispy, are these plants dead or will they pull through?

A. If branches are brittle and break rather than bend, they are likely dead and will not regrow from that. In the late May time frame, it is going to be difficult to keep a newly planted shrub watered well enough in this heat and drought, this will be even more difficult if the plant is not placed into the ground right away. Containerized plants would need to be watered at least once a day now that it is so hot.

5. A caller planted 2 fruit trees and a red maple that they received through a mail-order service. The fruit trees are doing fine, but the maple has not leafed out and is not growing well at all. What happened? Will the tree come through?

A. Sometimes during transportation, bare root trees will dry out and they are not able to recover from that. It is best to purchase your plants locally to ensure this does not happen.

Carpenter Bee, J. Kalisch
Carpenter Bee Photo from Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomologist

6. How do you control carpenter bees?

A. Carpenter bees are a good pollinator insect and will not sting you. If they are doing damage to the structure of a building, you can fill the holes with some caulk or putty. If you would like to, you can inject sevin dust into the holes before sealing the holes to kill the bees. For more information here is a guide from Lancaster County Extension on Carpenter Bees.

7. This caller has Siberian elms growing within a well-established windbreak that are dropping yellow leaves. What is wrong with the trees?

A. It is likely that the trees turning yellow are hackberry trees growing in the windbreak rather than the elm trees. Hackberry trees have recently been dropping leaves like they do in the fall. They tend to do this in the late spring if the weather becomes unfavorable to their growth. They will drop their leaves and then push new regrowth. This is likely due to the quick change to hot/dry this summer.

8. A caller just planted rose bushes and oak leaf hydrangea plants in full sun with a rock mulch. Now the roses have holes in the leaves and the hydrangea plants are getting rush spots. What is wrong with these plants?

A. After a picture was emailed, it was determined that the roses had rose slug damage. Rose slugs are actually the immature form of sawflies that feed on roses this time of year causing brown spots in the leaves and holes. Rose slugs resemble a caterpillar that is translucent green with a brown head and they are found on the underside of the leaf. They are not very detrimental and do not need to be controlled. They are a short-term problem. Also, it is difficult to control sawfly larvae and not harm pollinators in the flowers of the rose. The hydrangeas are exhibiting problems with heat due to being planted in full sun with a rock mulch. Make sure to keep them well-watered to avoid more problems.

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Creeping Charlie in a lawn

9. This caller has a mint smelling weed growing in his yard. What is it and how do you manage it?

A. This would be Creeping Charlie, also called ground ivy. This weed can be difficult to control, but it is best managed in the fall. Many broadleaf herbicides will work for creeping Charlie, including 2,4-D, trimec, tenacity, or triclopyr. It is best to apply one of these chemicals 2 or 3 times in the fall. One application can be made around September 15th with a second application around October 15th. It will take multiple years of this management plan to fully rid the yard of ground ivy.

10. A caller has zucchini leaves that are crisp and curled up rather than smooth like normal growth. What is wrong with the plant?

A. After discussion with the caller, it was determined that she should spread her watering out more. Our vegetable gardens need about 1 inch of water per week, but this should be spread out over 2 or 3 times per week if rain is not providing that water. She also sent a photo to Nicole, where it was determined that this might be due to herbicide drift from a broadleaf herbicide applied nearby. In the heat and humidity we are dealing with currently, it is best to not use broadleaf herbicides anymore now until the fall of this year to avoid volatilization of the chemicals where they turn into a gas and move around to non-target plants.

11. How much water does a lawn need? How do you know how much water you are applying? Should you water in the afternoon to cool the grass off or is that a myth?

A. A lawn need 1-1.5 inches of water per week. If you are not getting that naturally, it is best to apply 1/3-1/2 of an inch 3 times per week to keep the lawn healthy. You can do an audit of your system to know how much you are applying each time you water. Simply place tuna cans or some type of catch device throughout the lawn to catch the irrigation as it runs to determine how much is being applied each time. As for syringing the lawn, no it doesn’t really help the lawn cool off. Lawns transpire as a natural way to cool themselves, and syringing only cools the lawn a few degrees for a few minutes. For more information on syringing, here is a good Turf iNfo article from Bill Kreuser at the UNL Turfgrass Department.

12. This caller has something that is digging large holes in the yard. What would be causing this and how can the damage be controlled?

A. This could be due to a skunk digging up the grass looking for white grubs. Treat the lawn for grubs in the middle to late part of June to help reduce the attractant for the skunks. For more on skunks and how to control them, here is a guide from UNL Wildlife.

13. A caller is looking for a good plant to use to grow up a windmill. Would a vining hydrangea be a good choice to grow on the windmill that is in full sun?

A. No, hydrangea plants don’t grow well in full sun. Honeysuckle would be a good choice for this location. If you can keep the roots a bit shaded, clematis would be another great choice.

14. The final caller of the day wanted to know how long tulips can live?

A. Some of the newer varieties may not live as long as some of the old types. However most will grow for many years.

Plant Choices

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The winter months are a great time to start thinking about gardening for the spring. There is nothing for us to grow and we can’t go outdoors and do much in our garden beds, so we can start to think about spring to reduce our cabin fever. It is a great time because the plant catalogs have begun to arrive. Hooray! 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. One of the judging sites for this year was in Omaha, judged by my colleague, John Porter. 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. Universities and public gardens are good judging sites because they will 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. It is hard when shopping through all the different varieties to know which ones do well, the AAS finds those for you.

Each year the group chooses multiple annuals, perennials, and vegetables to be All American Selections. Then, the group comes up with a selection of annuals, vegetables, and perennials. For 2018, their choices include South Pacific Orange Canna, American Dream Sweet Corn, Super Hero Spry Marigold, Onyx Red Ornamental Pepper, Hungarian Mexican Sunrise Pepper, Cocktail Red Racer Tomato and Queeny Lime Orange Zinnia among others. One of the selections judged in Omaha was the Asian Delight Pak Choi. This variety does not bolt like the comparisons. Even weeks after other varieties went to seed, this Pak Choi did not bolt. John Porter stated that it did not bolt at all during the summer.

Pak-Choi-Asian-Delight, AAS Website
Asian Delight Pak Choi, Photo from the All-American Selections Website

Another great plant choice is the 2018 Perennial Plant of the year, Allium ‘Millenium’. 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.

Millenium Allium, Perennial Plant Association
Allium ‘Millenium’ from the Perennial Plant Association Website

Allium ‘Millenium’ is a great choice because it is a workhorse of the late summer garden, according the Perennial Plant Association. Alliums are ornamental onions, and this variety is supposed to be spelled with only one ‘n’ in the middle of the word ‘Millenium’, unlike the correct spelling with 2 ‘n’s. The parent plants of ‘Millenium’ have late flowering, uniform habit, great foliage, and are drought resistant. These traits are also seen in ‘Millenium’. This plant is a butterfly magnet and provides large blooms of deep purple in the late summer. The plant reaches up to 15 inches tall and stays looking healthy through the season. One of the great things about ‘Millenium’ is that it is deer and rabbit resistant and no serious pest problems are found on it.

Yard and Garden: June 2, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 2, 2017. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through July 28, 2017. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Graham Herbst, Community Forester from the Nebraska Forest Service

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first caller of the day has a Hen and Chicks plant that has grass growing in it. What can be done to remove the grass? She also has spiders in her lawn, what can she do to control them?

A. Grass-B-Gon is a product that contains the active ingredient Fluazifop. This is a grass herbicide. This product or any others containing Fluazifop can be sprayed directly over broadleaf plants with no damage to the desired plant. The spiders are not an issue outside in the lawn, in fact, they are beneficial. Spiders in the lawn are feeding on insects, many of which cause problems to our plants or bother us. Outside, spiders are beneficial. To keep them from coming indoors, home barrier sprays or tempo can be used around the foundation of the house to keep spiders and insects outside. If there is a fear of spiders, the tempo could be used where the spiders are seen.

2. A caller has a mock orange that has not bloomed for the past few years and now this year it finally is blooming some. Should it be removed? Why hasn’t it been blooming?

A. This could be due to a maturity issue. Many of our woody plants need to become established and get to a certain age before they will begin blooming. It could also be due to pruning time. Mock Orange bushes need to be pruned right after they finish blooming because they bloom on last years growth, or old wood. If they are pruned in the fall or early spring, the blooms would be cut off.

3. When is the proper time to spray for bagworms on blue spruce trees?

A.Spray when the bags are small to get the best control. It is best to spray after the bags emerge in the late spring to early summer but before the bags get longer than 1 inch in length. Mark a branch with a bag on it now and keep checking it to determine when the bags have emerged.

4. A caller has 6 table grape plants that had grapes set on. Now the grapes are dropping off and 70% are gone from the plants. What has caused these plants to loose all of the grapes?

A. This could be due to frost damage. Here is a guide from Oregon State University to describe the many factors that can hinder fruit development in grapes.

Forsythia-Richard Elzey, Flickr
Forsythia, Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

5. Is it too late to prune forsythia this year?

A. It is too late to prune and not cut off any blooms for next year. Spring blooming shrubs should be pruned shortly after they finish blooming for the year. Forsythias bloomed in March this year, so it would already be starting the formation of flower blooms for next year, pruning them now would cut those buds off. If the intent is to just prune a few branches just a little, it wouldn’t impact the overall blooming of the shrub, but pruning too heavily will lead to little or no development of flowers.

6. A caller wondered where they could go to find the wrap around water bags for trees?

A. Local nurseries should carry them or there are many online locations where you can order them. These bags are beneficial to help keep the root ball moist to help get new trees established.

7. Can Grass-B-Gon be used in strawberries or phlox and will preen reduce the number of runners grown off of strawberry plants?

A. Grass-B-Gon is not labeled for use in fruit bearing tree crops and vines. So, it cannot be used in strawberry plants. It would be good to use for grasses growing in phlox and not cause any harm to the phlox. Preen stops the germination of seed to reduce weeds grown from seed in the garden, so it will not harm runners which are growing off an existing plant, not from seed. Check to make sure the preen you are using is labeled for use in strawberries, the general preen is not for use in vegetable gardens.

8. How do you transplant a wild rose?

A. First, make sure it is on your property. Then, just make sure you dig up as much of the rootball as possible and replant it right away. You could also try taking a cutting from one of the branches and dipping it into rooting hormone and placing it into a pot of gravel to get roots to grow. Once roots develop, you can plant the rose.

9. A caller wants to build a privacy border with shrubs. Would Burning bush work for this or are there other options to choose from?

A. Burning bush would be a great privacy wall with good fall color. Other shrub choices would include serviceberry or any of the viburnums. You could plant it now, just make sure the plants get plenty of water with it being this hot and the roots being minimized due to transplanting.

10. This caller has tomato plants that when they planted it they saw grubs and wireworms in the soil around it. Should they treat for this and if so, what should be used?

A. Grubs are not controlled effectively around vegetable gardens because the chemicals with the best control are not labeled for use in the vegetable garden. However, there is a fairly high threshold of grubs and wireworms in the garden before damage is too high. A few grubs or wireworms throughout an entire garden will not cause any real damage. The plants they are most problematic on would be the root crops such as potatoes.

11. This caller had 2 questions: Her asparagus has been planted in this location for 30 years and is quite spindly, why is that? Her peonies are done blooming now, can she deadhead the spent flowers?

A. The asparagus is regularly fertilized so the small spears could be due to heavy harvest or it could be getting old or too crowded. It would be time this year to stop harvesting to allow the plants to recover and make sure to stop sooner next year. Once peonies and iris plants have completed their blooming period, the flowers can be cut off and composted. Leave the leaf material on the plant to build sugars to help with the flowering next spring.

12. How do you control weeds in asparagus?

A. Hand pulling and mulch would be the best options for weed control. When the plant is done in the fall and the leafy material is all removed below the ground level, the existing weeds can be sprayed with Roundup as long as no green material from the asparagus is above ground or showing. Here is a good explanation from Backyard Farmer of why we don’t use salt on asparagus for weeds and how to effectively control weeds with Roundup.

Carpenter Bee, J. Kalisch
Carpenter Bee photo from Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology

13. A caller has carpenter bees digging holes into the roof of a patio. What can be done about this?

A. You can plug those holes with caulk or putty or use a sevin dust in the holes. For more information on Carpenter Bees, see this article from Retired Extension Educator, Barb Ogg

14. This caller has puncture vine in the lawn. What can be used to control it?

A. 2,4-D is a good way to control it in the the spring before it blooms.

15. A caller has peonies that need to be transplanted. Can they also be divided when they are transplanted?

A. Yes, they can be cut into a few pieces when they are transplanted this fall. Just make sure that each section you cut off the plant has 3-5 eyes which are more like pink noses or knobs on the roots of the plant. Peonies are best transplanted and divided in September or October.

Choosing Plants for Next Spring

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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.