What Gardeners Are Talking About: Buckthorn

On Saturday, I spent a couple of hours at the Northfield Home and Garden Show at a booth shared by the Northfield Garden Club and the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners of Rice County. Going into the event, I was pretty sure that the most asked question would be about whether it was too early to mow or put down weed-and-feed on lawns. Nope. Many of the gardeners–especially those with larger or more rural properties—asked about buckthorn and what to do about it.

Buckthorn is a restricted noxious weed in Minnesota because of its invasive nature and its impact on wildlife habitats. Once buckthorn gets established, it takes over. There are two types: common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus). Common buckthorn came to the U.S. from Europe in the 1800s and was used for a hedge in many landscapes. By the 1930s, its negative qualities were well-known and the nursery trade stopped selling it. The glossy buckthorn is particularly invasive around wetlands.

The best way to control buckthorn is to pull it while it is still small. According to the University of Minnesota, it will not resprout from roots underground. Small plants (under 3/8th inch diameter) can be dug or pulled, but for larger ones many buckthorn removal groups use a weed wench or root talon. (The garden club has one that they have used for buckthorn remvoal.) For really large plants, the recommended control method is to cut the trunk as close to the ground as possible and then immediately treat the stump by painting on an herbicide containing triclopyr. (Garlon is the brand name most often recommended.)

You can find detailed information on identifying and controlling buckthorn at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website and at the U’s site. Getting rid of buckthorn can be a long process—homeowners must stay vigilant because the seeds can last five years in the ground. As you remove buckthorn, don’t forget to replant the area with a variety of native shrubs and trees that will attract birds and other wildlife. The DNR recommends plants like highbush American cranberry, nannyberry, serviceberry, chokecherry and gray dogwood.

Renegade Gardener and No-Lawn Lady in Northfield

Northfield gardeners will get a chance to hear two wildly original garden designers in the next few days. At tomorrow’s Home and Garden Business Showcase, Don Engebretson, a.k.a the Renegade Gardener and a design columnist for Northern Gardener, will speak three times on a variety of topics. He’ll be talking about common garden myths, cool plants and design for homeowners. (Click on the poster for more information on time and topic.) The show runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Northfield Arena.

On Tuesday, Evelyn Hadden, a Minnesota gardener whose love of no-lawn landscape has led to a website, a book and lots of speaking engagements, will be giving homeowners tips for getting rid of the grass. Her presentation is at the Northfield Public Library, beginning at 7 p.m., and is sponsored by the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library. Whether you want to just add more garden or banish grass entirely, Evelyn will have great ideas and examples to consider.

Plant Fashions for Spring 2012

The Lake Elmo Inn was packed for the Plant Fashion Show

I joined about 300 enthusiastic gardeners (a sell-out crowd) at the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center today for Spring at the Inn, a spring fashion show for plant geeks put together by the folks at the Minnesota State Horticulture Society. Walking the runway were hydrangeas, roses, ninebarks, phlox and an array of soon-to-be introduced plants developed by Minnesota-based Bailey Nurseries Inc. A who’s-who of Minnesota garden types were in attendance including representatives of Linders, Bachman’s, Wagners and Gertens greenhouses.

I’ll be writing a bit more about the plants that were shown later this week. You also can tune into Grow with KARE over the next two weeks. Bobby Jensen and Belinda Jensen were emcees at the event and will be highlighting some of their favorite plants on TV.

Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea (Bailey Nurseries photo)

Here are two that may make it into my garden this year. Vanilla Strawberry™ hydrangea is an upright 6 to 7 foot tall hydrangea that has huge multicolored blooms. The flowers start out a creamy white but slowly change to pink, then red. The blooms are gorgeous, but what sold me on this plant was that it has red stems, which gives it winter as well as summer interest.

I’m also considering a wisteria for the North. Called ‘Summer Cascade’, this hybrid of Kentucky wisteria is hardy to USDA Zone 3 and is covered with blooms. It can grow 20 feet and cover a trellis or pergola with beautiful, pendulous blooms. (I’ve seen the plant in trial gardens and it’s a wow!) The folks from Bailey said the plant may be in nurseries later this summer — although it is listed in other sources as not being widely available until 2013. This is one to watch for.


Lights, Camera…Garden?

Yesterday I attended the latest Minneapolis Home & Garden spring show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. While you can see lots of spas, windows, dip mixes and closet organizers, the show also includes plenty of ideas and inspiration for gardeners.

The theme of this year’s garden displays was the movies with gardens evoking Camelot, Rocky 2 and my favorite, the Lord of the Rings. This display by Natural Landscape Minnesota includes a hobbit hole, stone work and lots of interesting evergreens for texture. The display is just across the 1200 aisle from the Minnesota State Horticulture Society booth, where you can find an array of books, tools and garden gadgets. The hort society also has its usual fantastic selection of bulbs for sale in a room just outside the main hall. Be sure to check it out as well as the garden talks being given throughout the day.

I spotted two trends that seem to be growing. The first is the use of succulents in mixed displays for texture. I’m seeing more and more gardeners growing succulents on walls and in vertical displays, like this one from Wagners Greenhouse.

The other trend I’m watching is the idea of grafting multiple varieties of plants on a single stem. Grafting is not new, of course, but this apple tree from Bailey Nurseries includes three Minnesota varieties: ‘Honeycrisp’ on the bottom, ‘Sweet Sixteen’ in the middle, and Zestar® on the top. It’s grown as an espalier and because the varieties are different, they pollinate each other. Genius! Given its Minnesota heritage, it’s called ‘Hattrick’. The apple tree can be seen at the Linder’s display — well worth a visit for those who are interested in growing fruit in tight spaces.

The home show runs through Sunday and is a fun diversion for gardeners, DIYers and anyone planning a big garden or home project.

A Day at the Fair

Fair visitors admire the MSHS garden and water feature at the fair.

I spent most of yesterday at the Minnesota State Fair, selling memberships at the Minnesota State Horticultural Society booth in the Horticulture building. With perfect weather outside, the fair was crammed with people and we had a busy day at both the merchandise and educational booths.

My fellow membership sales workers and I sold 75 percent more memberships Monday than were sold on this day a year ago. (Woo-hoo!)  The sun and warm temperatures may have had something to do with it, but I also think people who are interested in gardening realize the value of a hyperlocal (to use a new buzzword) organization committed to gardening in this climate. Northern Gardener is the only magazine devoted to gardening in USDA zones 3 and 4. In addition to the magazine, members get discounts at 130 nurseries around the state, free tickets to the Twin Cities home and garden shows, use of an extensive lending library and access to classes and events geared especially for northern gardeners. Fair-goers also get a $5 discount on membership as well as a nice-looking pruner, some fertilizer and a couple of booklets as a thank you gift.

But what about the Fair?

Minnesota humor in action: There are only two season in Minnesota—winter and road construction.

I did not stray too far from the Horticulture Building. I enjoyed a delicious peach-filled scone from the French Meadow Bakery just down Carnes Avenue from us, and purchased one of the Star-Tribune’s Minnesota T-shirts for my husband, who definitely sees Minnesota as having only two seasons – winter and road construction. Of course, I stopped at the gardens outside the horticulture building, which are shady and lovely even in the afternoon. The MSHS garden, cared for by volunteers from the St. Anthony Park Garden Club, benefited from all the rain we had this summer. The Joe-Pye weed, hibiscus and rudbeckia are enormous and the edging of Profusion zinnias is particularly cheery.

If you get to the fair this weekend, please stop by and see the garden!


Getting Ready for the Fair

Yesterday, I joined four other hardy University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners from Rice County to prepare for the Rice County Fair, which opened last night. It was hot! But we got our booth put together, and I’ll be there twice this next week, attempting to answer questions and showing people the demonstration gardens.

The shade garden will be a cool respite at the fair this week.

The master gardeners have three lovely gardens at the fairgrounds in Faribault. One is a sun garden, one a shade garden, and one a butterfly garden. Tours will be conducted daily at 2:15 p.m. Walking through these gardens will give fair visitors a sense of which plants grow well in different environments.

The master gardener booth includes information about Emerald ash borer and other garden pests. Near our booth is an indoor pond, which is normally filled and stocked with fish by the state Department of Natural Resources. Due to the government shutdown, the DNR is absent from the fair. But, AquaEden, a local company stepped in to fill the pool and stock it with Koi. Be sure to stop by and check it all out.

See you at the fair!

Tough Choice for Northfield Gardeners

Where to go? Where to go? I’m probably not the only Northfield gardener wondering where to go on Thursday night this week when two excellent garden programs are running opposite each other on opposite ends of downtown. The choices:

The Northfield Public Library is hosting John Daniels,  a Northfield resident who works for Bachman’s in Lakeville, at 7 p.m. Thursday to talk about the best plant choices for northern gardens. He’ll recommend perennials, shrubs, roses and trees that are most likely to thrive in our climate and soil. The event is free and open to the public.

Meanwhile, at Just Food Co-op, urban naturalist Neil Cunningham will talk about creating sanctuaries for bees in home yards and gardens. Home gardeners can play a significant role in helping bees and other pollinators by providing pollen sources, water and cover. The two-hour talk begins at 6:30 p.m., and costs  $7 for nonmembers of the co-op and $5 for members. Register by calling 507-650-0106.

Where will you be Thursday night?