Group Therapy for Gloomy Gardeners


I had big plans for this weekend — big plans that involved cutting back plants, setting up raised beds and other outdoor gardening chores. Most of them are on hold now because of our relentless winter and this week’s spring storm that dumped several inches of snow and a real bad mood on most of Minnesota.

You can grow hostas in containers with the new mini types.

It’s time for some group therapy — and fortunately, the Northfield Public Library has two wonderful programs scheduled to get us through this miserable spring. On Tuesday, Gregg Peterson, president of the Minnesota Hosta Society, will talk about “Hostas: No Longer the Green and White Plant that Grandma Had Around the Tree.” There are dozens of new hosta varieties introduced each year, and hostas now come in sizes from mini to massive. If you garden in shade, part-shade or anything less than full sun, hostas can add low-maintenance interest to your garden. Gregg’s talk will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, at the Library Meeting Room.

sven roses
‘Sven’, one of the U of M’s newer varieties, is a great rose for northern gardens.

On Wednesday, April 24, the library will present another garden program. This one features Jim Beardsley of the Minnesota Rose Society. He’ll be talking about growing hardy roses in Minnesota. Many new roses are being developed that do well in our climate — even this year’s climate — and are well worth planting in Minnesota. In addition, old-fashioned roses often do well in Minnesota. Jim is a Master Rosarian and an accredited rose judge for the American Rose Society. Jim’s talk also begins at 7 p.m. in the Library Meeting Room.

With the cold temperatures, it may be three weeks (or more) before many of us will be able to really work in our gardens.  So, let’s band together and fight off the gloom with some garden talk.


Rice County Hort Day: A Gardener’s Education

I don’t remember when I first started going to the Rice County Horticulture Day, but it’s been awhile, and in many ways, attending that annual event was the start of my real education as a gardener. I grew plants long before I started going to the hort day, of course, and I killed a lot of them along the way.  I’ve had a lot of “ah-ha” moments at hort day — moments that prevented more plant killing and increased the joy that I get from gardening.

vendors at mg
Vendors sold jewelry, plants and other things at the Rice County Hort Day.

At last year’s event, Mike Heger’s talk about Heucheras shined a lot of light on why some heucheras flourish in the North and some languish. (It has to do with which species they are bred from.) At an earlier hort day, Mark Seeley gave a frightening talk about climate change that reinforced my sense that gardeners need to protect their little corners of the earth, for everyone’s sake.  One of my favorite presentations of all time was Terry Yockey’s talk on gardening for fragrance — grow plants for all your senses, she said.

This year, promises to be another fantastic day, and if you have not signed up yet, be sure to download the form  and mail it in. Here’s what’s on tap:

The theme is “Garden Magic,” and the event will be held again at Buntrock Commons at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The presentations start at 9 a.m, with Bruce Rohl’s talk about new varieties of peonies (“Not Your Mother’s Peonies”). Bruce runs Aspelund Peony Gardens in Kenyon and is up-to-date on what’s new in one of my favorite old-fashioned plants.

gardeners at mg event
Gardeners picked up great information at the 2012 Rice County Horticulture Day.

The magic continues at 10 a.m. with a presentation Fairy Gardening by Anna Risen of Tonkadale Gardens.  Anna has been designing fairy gardens for outdoor gardens or indoor containers for six years and knows how to bring the fantasy to life.

After lunch, one of the real stars of Minnesota horticulture, David Zlesak, will talk about Success with Roses. David breeds shrub roses and mini-roses for northern climates. I had the pleasure of testing one of his roses in summer 2012. Called Oso Happy® ‘Smoothie’, this rose bloomed and bloomed, practically into November. If you like roses, you won’t want to miss his talk.

The program ends with a talk on What’s New in Gardening, from Mark Armstead, a retailer and grower for Linder’s Garden Center. mark has been watching trends for 25 years and will tell you what’s in, what’s out and what’s new in plants and design.

In addition to the program, there will be coffee, a box lunch (no more tussling with students for lunch!), prize drawings, a silent auction and vendors.

To sign up, download the form here.



Black Spot Lookout

I only have two roses in my yard, both of which are tough and disease-resistant. But with the incessant rain we have had recently, my guess is many rose growers are on the lookout for black spot. My recent column for the St. Cloud Times covers how to diagnose black spot and other fungal diseases on roses and what to do about them.

How are your roses holding up?

Garden in Ice

Rosehip bathed in ice.

Things to be thankful for today: Family, friends, and nature’s beauty across four seasons.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

So Many Ideas, So Little Space

Did I mention there were orchids?

Here’s the problem with going to garden events, such as those I attended this weekend: You get so many ideas that you have to think about adding more space. Maybe I’ll expand my front gardens and add one of the hardy shrub roses Kathy Zuzek recommended, such as ‘Lillian Gibson’ or ‘Harrison Yellow‘. No, wait, how about ‘Candy Oh! Vivid Red,’ a variety hybridized by David Zlesak, a young U of M educator who has written for Northern Gardener.

Wait, maybe, instead I’ll add an herb garden, filled with the three kinds of basil and Lavendula ‘Hidcote‘ in a pot and a bunch of other herbs recommended by Theresa Mieseler of Shady Acres Herb Farm. No, wait, I’m going to plant that great big annual salvia, Yvonne’s Giant, which Donald Mitchell recommends for attracting hummingbirds. And, that doesn’t take into account the enthusiastic peony and dahlia gardeners I talked with Sunday at the MSHS Plant Society Day at Gertens.

So many ideas, so little space.

Another Knockout Coming in 2009

Good news for lazy rose growers: Another Knockout® rose will be available next year, and this one is white. William Radler, the Milwaukee breeder who created the incredibly popular Knockout roses in his backyard, told a group of Midwest Master Gardeners that a new white rose, expected to be called WhiteOut, will be introduced in 2009. Radler’s organization, Rose Innovations, is also prepping a new verbena, called Sweet Thing, for the marketplace in 2009.

Knockout roses are bred for gardeners with limited time and less inclination to fuss. They require no spraying and no winter cover, just a little fertilizer and water. Radler and his crew gave the master gardeners an inside look at how they develop these tough roses. Radler’s yard/lab, located in suburban Milwaukee, is planted with 1,400 roses, 500 of which are replaced each spring because they could not make the cut. To develop extremely hardy roses, Radler treats them in the worst ways possible. He waters from sprinklers at night several times a week to encourage disease. He intermittently dusts them with a powder made of leaves of other diseased roses. They get one treatment with fertilizer a year. Those that survive might become Knockouts, which also have to be self-cleaning, meaning they drop their petals naturally to keep a neat appearance, and, of course, they have to look good. In addition to the shrub-type roses, Radler is working on developing a sturdy, disease resistant hybrid tea rose.

A Knockout hybrid tea is still several years away, but the visit to Radler’s prompted some discussion among the master gardeners. Apparently some enthusiastic (fanatic?) rose growers don’t like Knockouts because they make gardeners believe roses are “easy,” said one of the master gardeners, who is a rose grower herself. But she liked the Knockouts because they introduced gardeners to roses–and once they were interested and had success with Knockouts, they could move on to other roses.

Oprah's Rose

She influences the best-seller lists, dabbles in presidential politics, and tells American women how to think about themselves….and now, what to plant in their gardens. Oprah Winfrey is introducing a rose. Called “The Legends” in honor of 18 African-American women leaders and pioneers, Oprah’s rose is a large, hybrid tea rose with big, bright red blooms. It’s is being offered in pre-release by California-based Regan Nursery, before its wider release in 2009. The rose was developed–based on Oprah’s preferences–by hybridizer Tom Carruth, who has hybridized nine previous All-America Rose winners. For the rose fiends among us, here is the parentage of the rose: (City of San Francisco x Olympiad) x [Amalia x (Ingrid Bergman x All That Jazz)].

While roses seem a bit of a stretch even for Oprah’s brand, she joins a long line of famous folk, living and dead, who have roses named for them. Yes, The Legends isn’t exactly named for Oprah, but what do you think people will ask for when they buy it at their local nursery?