Gardening in Interesting Times: More Ideas from Experts

Hosta society experts answer questions at Plant Society Day at Gertens yesterday.

Yesterday the Minnesota State Horticulture Society hosted its annual Plant Society Day at Gertens in Inver Grove Heights. Several specialty societies were represented at the event and it seemed a great time to get more advice from experts about the best approach to gardening this very early, very warm spring.

Mary Don Beeson of the Garden Club of Ramsey County told me that she has been working in her perennial beds this past week. Because of the lack of snow cover, many perennials heaved out of the ground due to lack of snow cover, so she spent some time pushing them back, fixing edging that had heaved and giving everything a good long drink of water. The extended drought seems to be more of a concern with these top-notch gardeners than the early spring. If we do not get some good soaking rains this week, consider hooking up the hose and watering all your plants — they’ll be grateful.

Speaking of rain, Lisa Williams-Hardman, membership guru at MSHS and a great gardener, told me she thinks that some decent rain will create a burst of green in Minnesota gardens in the next couple of weeks. Like several others at the Plant Society Day, Lisa does not expect severe cold again. In fact, she was one of several people who told me they doubted the temperatures would drop below 30 again this spring.

I checked with experts from both the Minnesota Rose Society and the Twin Cities Rose Club about how to handle roses. If you have tea roses, floribundas or other more tender roses and you tip them over winter, just leave them where they are, according to the folks from the Minnesota Rose Society. They will not be harmed staying underground another three or more weeks, and if weather turns cold, they will be secure there. Chris Poppe of the Twin Cities Rose Club covers her roses with bags of mulch and a blanket for winter. She has removed the blanket and is slowly uncovering roses to give them some air. If your roses are out, Chris and fellow rose grower Carole Smuda suggest that you water them well and consider spraying them with Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant. The real danger to drought-stressed plants is the wind, Chris noted, which may dry them out further.

The folks at the Minnesota Hosta Society table noted that while some hostas were beginning to emerge, most were still underground. Careful clean up while trying not to step into the gardens too much and water is the way to go. Gregg Peterson of the society said that people who did not water well into the fall last year — like into November — have a greater chance of losing plants, especially newly planted shrubs and trees.

My take-aways from talking with the plant experts: go slow, get out the hose and hope that Mother Nature doesn’t zap us with some extra cold weather.

Great Weekend for Plant Sales

Alright, the rain is not exactly what you would order for a lot of outdoor shopping, but pack an umbrella and head out to some of the spring plant sales around Minnesota. Mother’s Day weekend is one of the biggest weekends of the year for Master Gardener, garden club, and other charity plant sales.

Some of the big ones this weekend include the famous (sometimes infamous because of the crowds!) Friends School plant sale at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, which started today, as well as a bunch of sales around the Twin Cities and the rest of the state. Check out the MSHS home page for a complete list. (Click on calendar.) Next weekend, especially Saturday, May 15, is another big day for sales, including the sale of the Garden Club of Ramsey County and the Northfield Garden Club.

These sales are a great way to pickup tried-and-true plants for reasonable prices. Plus, the gardeners who work at the sales are always willing to share advice with new or experienced gardeners.

Lessons from the Masters

IMG_5648The Hennepin County Master Gardeners held a garden tour today and, despite my poor navigational skills in South Minneapolis (what can I say? I come from the east side of the Twin Cities), I managed to hit four of the 10 gardens. It was well worth all the missed turns. Each of the gardens had a theme — wildlife garden (that’s where the hawk at left was hanging out), garden retreat, farm garden, etc. — but the gardens had many things in common, too. In addition to wonderful, well-cared-for plants, here are three things I noticed:

IMG_5641Entries: Maybe it’s because these gardens were mostly on fairly narrow urban lots, but the ones I saw had distinct entries. In two, you walked through an arch that seemed to beckon a visitor in. Even those without obvious entry portals had paths that seemed to lead you into and through the garden.

IMG_5673Water: You could not get more simple than this water feature, attached to the exterior wall of one of the homes. But this was positioned just at the point where you entered the backyard and the sound of the water added another sensual element to the garden. A larger garden near Minnehaha Creek boasted a formal fountain as a centerpiece. With curving, perennial-filled beds on each side, the fountain with plants encircling it offered a place for your eye to rest as it moved through the yard.

IMG_5652Art: Whether a simple leaf-cast (very easy to do with a rhubarb or large hosta leaf) or a funky metal sculpture, all of the gardens I saw included artwork — and not just one piece. I saw mosaic stones, stone welcome signs, even a tea-cup glued to a narrow metal pole and planted in the garden — another easy-to-do project.

IMG_5687Thanks to the gardeners for opening their yards to the public and to the Master Gardeners for organizing the tour. The homeowners were present in each of the gardens I visited and happy to share advice. In addition, other Master Gardeners answered questions and offered lots of information and handouts.

A Busy Weekend for Gardeners

As parts of Minnesota recover from a March blizzard and the rest of us wonder why the temperatures are more like January than March, it’s good to have something to look forward to — such as a weekend packed with garden activities. March is the month of classes and hort days in Minnesota.

Saturday I’ll be attending the Rice County Horticulture Day at Buntrock Commons at St. Olaf College. The program includes talks on Shrub Roses for Minnesota by Kathy Zuzek, Herb Gardening and Cooking with Theresa Mieseler, How to Attract Hummingbirds presented by Donald Mitchell, and Garden Photography with John Maciejny, whose photographs have appeared in Northern Gardener many times. There will also be a book signing by How to Shrink Your Lawn author Evelyn Hadden. Sounds like a great event.

Saturday night, I’ll take a break from garden events and head over to the Northfield High School‘s production of Rock ‘N Roll Revival, featuring my daughter (in cat glasses!) and 100-plus other high school singers, dancers and musicians. This is the third RRR in which my daughters have participated and I’m always impressed by the quality of the performance — and the hard work that goes into it.

plantsocietyday09-webbanner1Sunday, I’ll be heading to the Plant Society Day at Gertens in Inver Grove Heights. If you have a special interest in daffodils, bonsai, mushrooms, roses or any of nearly a dozen specialties, this is the place to learn about them. From 1 to 4 p.m., there will be displays and mini-demonstrations. Here are the groups scheduled to be presenting:

An impressive list! Many of these groups have classes, shows and other events. They all have informative web sites as well. If you are interested, check them out…or stop by Gertens on Sunday.

Gearing Up for Gardening

Yes, it’s not even Valentine’s Day. And, yes, it snowed this morning. But for gardeners February and March are the time to gear up for the season ahead. Ordering seeds and attending one of the many horticulture days, spring-flings, and shows that gardening groups organize are the two best ways to get excited about the season ahead.

I’ve attended the Rice County Horticulture Day (scheduled for March 15 this year) for the past several years. It’s held at Buntrock Commons at St. Olaf and it’s always a great place to hear about what’s new and interesting and to see presentations by experts. One year, I even won a gift certificate to Switzer’s Nursery! (Raffles, drawings and lots of loot are traditional at these gardening events.)

Weather and other obligations often keep me from attending all the spring flings I would like, but here’s a list of events that I’d like to get to this year. (For a complete list of horticulture events and classes in Minnesota, check out the MSHS calendar.)

The granddaddies of gardening events are the “shows,” the traditional spring home and garden shows held in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The St. Paul show, now called the Minnesota Home and Patio Show, opens next Thursday, Feb. 14, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 17. The Minneapolis Home and Garden Show is two weeks later, opening on Feb. 27 and closing Sunday, March 2.

In between those shows, native plant lovers might want to check out the Minnesota Wild Ones Native Plant Expo Saturday, Feb. 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The focus this year is on attracting birds to your backyard. The event includes talks by wildlife authors Mariette Nowak and Carrol Henderson as well as exhibits by organizations providing products and services related to native plants and birding. Registration ends Feb. 19, so now is a good time to sign up. The event will be held at the Radisson Hotel in my hometown, Roseville.

Another must-go horticulture event is the annual District 7 Spring Fling. District 7 is the area around St. Paul, and many active, knowledgeable gardeners are part of the organization. This year’s program features Northern Gardener’s horticulture editor, Debbie Lonnee, discussing shrubs, and Jayne Roberts on garden art. Author Jeff Gillman, a U of M professor, will talk about his book The Truth About Garden Remedies. The Spring Fling is known not only for providing great information but for serving a fantastic lunch. This year the caterer is Tinucci’s. The event is held at Oakland Jr. High in Lake Elmo and requires registration by March 1. Check out the web site for more information.

Sunday, March 16, is the MSHS Plant Society Day at Gertens. This day will involve information booths and demonstrations by the many plant societies that are active in Minnesota. Daylilies, grasses, rock gardening, whatever your interest, there is a specialty club.

Now all I have to do to get really ready for the season ahead is to order my seeds…but first, I’d better shovel the driveway.

Cole Burrell and the Native Plants Movement

burrell_c.jpgC. Colston Burrell, a garden designer, photographer, naturalist, and all around guru of the native plants movement, will be speaking at Bachman’s Lyndale Avenue store Jan. 12. The event is co-sponsored by the Minnesota State Horticulture Society, the Rock Garden Society of Minnesota, the Saint Paul Garden Club, and Twin Cities Wild Ones. Burrell, author of A Gardener’s Encyclopedia of Wildflowers, is in the Twin Cities to attend the Minnesota Green Expo, the landscaping industry’s annual trade show.

His public talk, which begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 12, will be on the 20th Century Native Plant Movement, tracing gardeners’ love of native plants from “the Victorian passion for the outdoors and the birth of the field guide to the environmental movement and the growing number of modern native plant nurseries.” With the increasing concern about buckthorn and other invasives, more people are seeking native plants for private gardens and public spaces.

Tickets for Burrell’s presentation are $20 for members of MSHS, $25 for everyone else. Seating is limited and this event likely will sell out. If you are interested, call 651-643-3601, ext. 211, to register.