Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
Late summer garden chaos.
There are times I am a green-eyed gardener, jealous of others picture-perfect gardens. I know from my own photography that it is easy to move the perspective of the lens to avoid the messiness. I define my garden as natural, with weeds, untrimmed shrubs, and plants helter-skelter. I am comfortable with that style of gardening. It is also true that I am in awe of perfect layouts. Just as a model in a fashion magazine looks more like an average person without make-up and good lighting; I know the flawlessness shown in the garden magazines may not be so real either. Anyway, here goes with my garden envy list.
Do you enjoy gardening or want to start gardening? Have you watched the TV show Escape to the Chateau? If you have, then you would recognize the term “potager garden”. Join us on how to Create a Potager Garden presented by Sue Reinardy, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, virtually on Zoom on Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10 am to Noon as part of a celebration of National Library Week at the Sherman & Ruth Weiss Community Library. Attendees will have a chance to win a special Library T-shirt!
Potager is a French term for a kitchen garden. These gardens can include not only vegetables but herbs, fruit, berries and cutting flowers. During the presentation you will learn where to site your potager, what plants to include and how to maintain it through the growing season.
For the first 15 people who sign up, we will offer them a Take ‘N Make Kit of a Potager Starter Garden. The kit consists of a container, donated by Marketplace Foods, and seeds and a planting medium donated by Sue Reinardy.
You can register for the event by going to the following link – https://bit.ly/3rtyZq9 or by calling the library to register and to receive the link for the Zoom event. We suggest that if you don’t have the free Zoom app, download it before the program begins and go to the presentation at least 5 minutes before it starts. If you have any questions, please call the library at 715-634-2161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This arrangement includes: Nigella, Dahlia, Zinnia, and Borage.
Every year I try to grow something new. This year's experiment included Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist) and Borage. Both have proven to be winners for putting in flower arrangements. I've also added a few new varieties of dahlias (“Park Princess”, Bush ‘Cancun’, and “Melody Dora”) that have been producing blooms since mid-July. All are represented in this bouquet.
Both of these flowers attract pollinators so they are good additions to a garden insectary. See this blog post from the North Country Master Gardener Volunteers on what is an insectary. For more information on Love-in-a-Mist; the University of Wisconsin has a Garden Fact Sheet.
I have left some of both of these plants to go to seed and am looking forward to seeing how readily they both self-seed. However, I'm not going to take a chance; both will be on next year's seed order.
Going Native –
On April 23 – 10:30 am to Noon, the Sherman & Ruth Weiss Community Library-Hayward in partnership with the UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program is providing an online gardening program via Zoom, as part of National Library Week, "Find your Library at your place".
This program will cover what, when and where to cultivate native plants that provide food for butterflies, song birds, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Also learn about phenology: the study of the development of plants and animals as affected by our climate and weather. By using your observations you can know the best time for planting, the blooming cycles of plants, and the emergence of insect pests. All will help you become a more natural gardener. The presenter will be Sue Reinardy- UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.
Register in advance for this meeting: https://uwextension.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcvcO-hrTouG9YSWNKCXExwjkDrGV5XA-q4 in order to receive handout materials, the Zoom link and password.
We once had a three-season porch that overlooked a pond and my backyard gardens. It was furnished with typical rattan porch furniture. We never used it. Why? I would guess we weren’t comfortable.
I refurnished the room with cushy sofas, chairs, and a small table for meals. Outside I added a Pagoda Dogwood and Japanese Maple (both small understory trees growing about 8-10 feet) that provided screening from our neighbors. It made all the difference and we enjoyed the room and used it frequently. Can a similar redo of a garden increase the use of an outdoor room?
Now our screened porch is a screen house set right in the middle of the gardens.
This is embarrassing, I’m a failure at growing zucchini. This most prolific plant that is the subject of jokes and interesting stories. Like the report in the 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac: “In Berlin, Germany, a 16-inch, 11-pound zucchini was mistaken for an unexploded World War II bomb.” And I’m sure you have heard the joke told in many ways but the punch line is always to lock your car so you don’t receive any unexpected gift zucchinis from generous neighbor gardeners.
Shown above: Female on left, male on right. First blossoms are usually male. The female flowers quickly develop a tiny fruit that can be fertilized manually with a small paint brush if the bees don't do their job. Male and female flowers can be eaten raw, fried or stuffed.
Summer squash (aka zucchini ) are often described as a no-fail plant. “With just a few plants you’ll have enough for friends, neighbors, and friend’s friends”, according to Grocery Gardening by Jean Ann Van Krevelen. She also advises to keep harvesting or plants will stop producing. Pick every day and pick when small when they are the most flavorful. It was the "small" part that caught my attention. The larger the size the less flavor for zucchinis. I want mine small, in fact much smaller than the ones in the markets (see female flower/fruit in above picture.)
Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer, describes David Fairchild’s exploration for new food plants for America at the turn of the last century (1900s). Fairchild first tasted zucchini in California. It originated somewhere in Central America and was developed as a food crop in Italy and France. Nature’s intent was for zucchini to be eaten small, before the blossom falls off; its name is Italian for ‘little squash’ according to Stone. According to Wikipedia, the fruit is typically harvested as a baby vegetable, approximately finger size, and is referred to as "baby marrows" in South Africa. That was the size I wanted to try.
Anyway, my plan was to grow a few plants in a tub this year to have a ready supply of perfectly sized (before the blossom dropped) fruits to sauté for an evening meal. I grew exactly two zucchinis and, yes, they were perfect. But then no more.
Where did I go wrong? Maybe they don’t like being constricted in a tub, maybe they need more than 6 hours of sun a day (the maximum in my woodland garden), maybe they had too much or too little water? Lot’s of questions, no answers.
Do I try again next year to have a supply of the perfect zucchini? I have more than six months to ponder whether to use space for this or a less finicky plant.
Hollyhocks are an old fashioned cottage garden plant that provide visual height to your garden. They are considered either biannual or a short-lived perennial. They need full sun and rich, moist soil. I have my growing in a spot that receives about 6 hours of sunlight a day. My plant has now been blooming for over 6 weeks and shows no signs of quitting. Leaving the flowers to seed will help ensure plants for future years as hollyhocks are self-seeders. Another option is to cut it back to the base after blooms have faded to have it come back for 2-3 years.
I'm hoping that mine will come back next year.
I looked over the deck and below saw the sun highlight several white flower spikes in an area that is intentionally left wild. Nearby I had planted one Black cohosh nearly a dozen years ago. Could it have seeded this new clump?
Native? In all probability it came from the plant in the garden bed. Black cohosh is not native here although it is to Eastern North American and as close as Iowa. I doubt that those seeds would have traveled that far to land here.
Name? I found it confusing in trying to research this plant. It’s botanical name has been reclassified from Cimicifuga racemose to Actaea racemose. Some sources recognize this new classification, others do not. What’s an amateur to do when professionals disagree on the name?
Go with the common name? Not much help there either. This plant goes by: Black cohosh, bugbane, black snakeroot, fairy candles, rattleroot, bugwort, and richweed to name a few. Are you confused? I am.
Where to plant? What first attracted me to this plant is that it can be planted in part to full shade. I have it in a spot on the woodland edge under a cedar tree. It likes medium moisture and an organically rich soil. It is very slow to establish. I have not had deer or rabbits nibble on the plant, but then I didn’t even know about this new clump. There are some reports online that deer like to eat the flower spikes.
Black Cohosh or bugbane or whatever you want to call it can be started as a plant (that’s how I got started), from bare roots, or seeds. It can take 3-4 years for the plants to start flowering. What is confusing me right now is that the volunteer plants are blooming and the one I planted hasn't even sent out a flower shoot yet for the season.
The seeds are even more finicky requiring a warm moist period followed by a cold moist period to germinate. It may take 1-2 years for the seeds to germinate.
How to use? The plant can grow 4-6 feet tall with the flower spike and a 2 to 4-foot spread. It provides a nice vertical flower for up to 3 weeks in shady spots in mid-to-late summer. This is a very low maintenance plant once it has a nice place to live and minimum clean-up in the spring.
Black cohosh was used in the 1800’s to treat a number of conditions from snakebites, inflammation, child birth pain and menstrual symptoms. As for medicinal use, be forewarned that the entire plant is poisonous if used in large doses causing nausea, dizziness, and can also cause miscarriage. The bad odor from the blooms, described as spoiled meat, is said to repel bugs if rubbed on the skin. Not sure what might be worse, the bugs or the smell of rotten meat.
According to Jack Sanders (who wrote about it in his book, The Secrets of Wildflowers), Black cohosh was the main product of the first large successful business in America owned by a woman. Lydia E. Pinkham Medical Company, founded in 1875, sold Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound to treat female complaints. In addition to Black cohosh the medicine contained about 20% alcohol which may have contributed to it being a best seller when proper ladies did not drink liquor. The compound is still marketed today without the alcohol.
I like the plant, but prefer my alcohol without the extra poisonous compounds thank you very much.