Minnesota State Fair Potted Plant Show

Cacti on display at the Minnesota State Fair potted plant show.
Cacti on display at the Minnesota State Fair potted plant show.

I’m not much of a houseplant or cacti grower, but I sure admire people who can keep a plant healthy and lush through the winters in our harsh climate. That’s one reason I usually stop by the MSHS Potted Plant, Cactus and Succulent Show at the Minnesota State Fair.

This year’s show will be held the first two days of the fair, Aug. 21 and 22, and now is the time to get your entries ready. The show features categories for growers of everything from African violets to patio petunias, orchids, coleus, roses, begonias, all types of succulents from aloe to sedum, figs, cacti of all kinds and dozens of other species. See the entry information for a complete list of categories.

Not flashy, but a beautiful and healthy looking plant.
Not flashy, but a beautiful and healthy looking plant.

Entrants should bring their plants to the Horticulture Building at the Minnesota State Fair before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 20. Judging will be done that evening, with ribbons awarded for each category. Judges may also name a Grand Champion and Reserve Champion as well as special awards for exceptional entries.

The show is open to the public during the first two days of the fair, Aug. 21 and 22. It’s well worth a visit for any plant enthusiast.

New Northern Gardener, New Blog and the Digital Issue

It’s been a month since I’ve written on this blog, and while I don’t usually explain my absences (not even my mother is that eager for my next post), this is one worth elaboration.

blog-notesfromnortherngardMost importantly, I’ve been working on a new blog for Northern Gardener magazine. While I edit Northern Gardener, this blog has always been my own thing. Since July, I’ve been working with the Minnesota State Horticultural Society on its new blog, Notes from Northern Gardener. This has been an exciting effort. In November, we ran a series on Great Plants for Northern Gardens, which inspired some conversation about which plants are winners and which are sinners for northern gardens. Then, in January, publisher Tom McKusick and I teamed up to write a month’s worth of posts about vegetable gardening. Tom is a bonafide tomato expert and has two large gardens that he tends. The series, which just ended, got a terrific response from readers on Facebook, Twitter and in real life. With all the cold, wet, just plain nasty weather we have had this month, many people are ready to get out in the garden.

NG coverWe’re also at work on the March/April issue of Northern Gardener, and it will be out before the end of February. In the meantime, if you have not picked up our January/February issue, it’s on the newsstands with the bright photo of an African violet on the cover. There are lots of good articles in this issue on everything from rock gardening to must-have tools to a profile of a beautiful “up North” garden in Wisconsin. If you followed the earlier link, you may have noticed that it went to the new digital edition of Northern Gardener. From now through June, this digital edition will be open to the public. So, if you have been thinking about subscribing (or better yet, joining MSHS), you can get a preview of the magazine for free. Check it out.

As I write this, the thermometer is hovering around zero — up from about 15 below zero this morning when I walked our poor dog. (It was a very short walk.) But we have noticeably more daylight than in early January and I’m about to plant some winter-sowing containers and the seeds I’ve ordered arrive in the mail nearly every day. As my mother-in-law used to say, “if you make it through January, you’ve got winter licked.” Here’s hoping you’ve got winter licked, too, and are looking forward to the garden season ahead.





New Northern Gardener Available

I was very happy the other day when I spotted the November/December issue of Northern Gardener on the end-cap display rack at my closest Barnes and Noble. Even happier, because the magazine was displayed at eye-level where lots of folks can see it.

This is a fun issue, full of garden information to ponder over the winter, as well as inspiring ideas and our annual holiday gift guide. The cover photo, taken by Susy Morris of the Chiot’s Run blog, goes with Martin Stern’s article on planning your garden year with nature’s time in mind. Martin, co-owner of the wonderful Squire House Gardens in Afton, begins his garden year in November, assessing what worked, what didn’t and what to do in the next season. From there, he takes readers through the year, offering ideas for when to do particular chores and which plants to plant for color and interest all year long.

In addition to Martin’s story, we have Eric Johnson’s article on how to make a terrarium, a profile of a contemplative garden and Nancy Rose’s interesting comparison of soils in Minnesota and Massachusetts, called “A Tale of Two Soils,” which is not only educational, but gave me a chance to write a few Dickens puns.

I hope you enjoy the issue!

Photos from the MSHS State Fair Garden

Inspiring Community Gardeners

Three giving gardeners, from left, Maureen Adelman, MSHS Life Award winner, Chuck Levine, Bruce Bereford Educator's Award winner, and Malcolm Burleigh, Bob Churilla Golden Rose Volunteer award winner.

What an inspiring Saturday I had, hearing story after story about the work of the winners of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society’s Awards. These are folks who understand the power of gardening in community—the power to build connections, to increase understanding, to teach youngsters and to create beauty and food to be shared with others.

The awards, which were presented at a luncheon at Bachman’s in Minneapolis, honor individuals, who teach, volunteer and lead, as well as groups, such as the Garden to Table program of the Eagan Resource Center, which uses its food gardens to reduce hunger and build connections; the Gay Straight Alliance of Blaine High School, which created a beautiful school garden–and a more inclusive school environment; and the Soil and Sunshine Club, which has been beautifying its far-flung communities for decades. Businesses, such as Wagner’s Greenhouse, which provides hundreds of plants for the MSHS Garden in a Box program, were also honored.

Several of the recipients spoke about how meaningful they found community gardening to be. As one said, “Gardening is just as much about growing community as it is growing food.”

Congratulations to all the winners!


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.

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!