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Vol. 22, No. 3 July / August / September 2014 - La Crosse Floral

In this issue:


Did you know?

Dahlias originated from Mexico and were grown by the Aztecs. They were considered edible at one point and the Aztecs did use them for food. Their taste was described as having “a repulsive, nauseous peppery taste.” They disappeared for along while during the eighteenth century and then became really popular again after several decades. Someone even offered a prize of one thousand pounds in exchange for a blue dahlia in 1825. Others would often exchange diamonds for them. They had become a “showy fashion” and considered the “contemporary style of gardening” for people during that time.


Flower Facts

Despite the deliciousness of itself, strawberries are technically not berries or fruits. They are actually the ends of plants stamen. The “actual fruits” are the small black spots on the “berry.”


Six Beneficial Insects for Your Garden

(As suggested by The National Gardening Bureau – Google “National Garden Bureau” to read how each insect helps in the garden)

  1. Syrphid Flies – The best way to attract these flies is to plant sweet alyssum or lobularia. They also like yarro, catmint (Nepeta), cilantro, and many other flowers.
  2. Bumblebees – These insects are not picky. They love clover, sunflowers, mint, cone flowers, asters, and tomatoes. The trick is to make sure you have some flowers in bloom all year long to not only attract them, but keep them in your yard or on your deck.
  3. Parasitic Wasps – Attract these bugs with nectar-producing flowers. Two large families of plants that make excellent lures are the carrot and sunflower family. So, dill, cilantro, parsley, and asters are just a few.
  4. Tachnid Flies – most adult tachnid flies feed on nectar and pollen, just like the parasitic wasps above. Tachnid flies love mint. I always urge caution with mint. Keep it in a container so it doesn’t run rampant in your garden.
  5. Lace Wings – Plant flowers with easy access to nectar. The same plants that attract parasitoids will nourish lace wings. Studies have shown that spraying aphid-infested plants with homemade solution (1 tbsp. sugar per cup of water) can help increase visits by lace wings and lady beetles.
  6. Lady Beetles – Lady Beetles love aphids, so some say a wise gardener will have a little tolerance for minor aphid infestations. Lady beetles also love buckwheat flowers – very hard to provide your garden is “in town.”


Dr. Greenthumb

Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to think about those four letter words again like weed and feed. Pull weeds before they go to seeds! A good layer of mulch will cut down on the number that will sprout. Use PREEN! It’s great stuff! Fertilize monthly with a balanced formula. Use smaller amounts and water it into the soil. If possible water below the plant foliage where it will do the most good and prevent diseases if there is water on top of the leaves at night. Here are some seasonal tips.

We have bamboo stakes for tying up tall outdoor plants before the winds of Summer blow them over.

Repeat from last year: Tomatoes develop a leathery, sunken grey spot on the bottom of the fruit because of lack of an even supply of water especially during windy, hot weather. Water regularly, mulch the plants, and apply lime or Epsom Salts to the soil at least four months before you plant directly in the ground. Take notes for next week.

The first week in July is the last time to pinch September flowering mums. Cutting back all stems about 1/3 creates a much larger plant. If the mum plants fail to bloom in time, it’s because of increased shade or they may need dividing next Spring.

Best results come from dividing or planting of Peonies in the late summer between September 1st and October 6th. Do not plant too deep. Apply mulch after the ground freezes the first year.

Want more flowers on your Christmas cactus? Break off the small reddish leaf at the end of each stem on or about September 6th. This is called leveling. This will more than double your amount of flowers. Leave outside when night temps cool down or keep at 55ºF or below at night inside the house to aid in triggering the bud formation.

September is bulb-planting month. Success with bulbs is easy if you follow the directions. Keep the level of the bed higher than the surrounding garden. Plant the correct depth in well drained soil, fertilize with Bulb Booster, water in thoroughly and repeat watering throughout the Fall. Cover with marsh hay after the ground freezes in November. Buy top quality bulbs for the best results.

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The Little Sprout

News Flash! The Little Sprout is having babies! Baby veggies and fruits that is! I simply have to tell you about my Rooftop Garden that as of this writing, is going crazy. I simply need to prove to you that miniature forms of fruits and veggies are PERFECT for the single gal (or guy) to grow. You simply need (1) the correct size of pot, (2) the correct soil to grow in, (3) the fact that you need to FERTILIZE, especially when doing container gardening.

First up – the correct size of the pot. I grow almost ALL my plants in a 20” pot – really! That means, I put 1 tomato plant in the middle. It just so happens that I have 1 pot with 2 tomato plants – a Sun Sugar that will get approximately 3-4 feet above the soil and a Cherry Punch that is dwarf and will only get 20-24” tall. I have my Easy Pick Gold Zucchini in another 20” pot, but the harvest will be over by about July 10th, so I have also put my Baby Butternut Squash in this pot because it will take approximately 110 days (or 3 months) to grow and harvest. Then there are my Bush Green Beans which I have 3 clumps of (planted 3 seeds per clumps in an opposite triangle, of Baby Persian Cucumbers. I also have in another 20” pot, a clump of 3 seedlings, in the middle of my pot, my baby watermelon. The only 2 pots which are smaller are 14” pots, each with a Baby Pepper Plant.

Second up – the soil you use is very important. I am not a big fan of MiracleGro soil, or MiracleGro soil with fertilizer in it. We see too many folks that feel if they plant their plants in this soil, they’re DONE. Not correct – and the instructions on the bag would seem to indicate that you are good to go for the whole season. However, scientists have proven that after about 30 days ALL the fertilizer is used up and/or has washed out the bottom of the pot. So, I use our own hand-blended soil or our Ball Professional Mix which we use to grow our own plants in. I usually put coffee filters inside the pot over the holes (notice holes – I drill extra holes for better drainage) and fill with soil. I bounce the pot a little to knock out any air bubbles. I also set my pots up off the black rubber roof on Down Under Plant Stands. This way, air flows underneath, water drains, I do not have icky stains, and the roots do not superheat on scorching days.

Third up – Fertilizing. Some years ago, my Grower, Linda, was tasked with taking care of my plants whenever I am gone on vacation. She was frustrated with how poorly I took care of my plants. She is the one who hooked me onto Epsom Salts – yes, the same thing you soak in the tub with. No I apply Epsom Salts a week or so after I plant – to all my veggies – especially the tomatoes and peppers. These veggies often need the added calcium found in Epsom Salts to prevent that icky black oil spot you may see form on the bottoms of the fruit. By the time you see this, it is too late. They need the added calcium when blossoms are setting the fruit – early on. So, I will add Epsom Salts 2 more times – mid June and mid July. Then I am done with the Epsom Salts. Now – on to Fertilizer. All my veggies “flower” to set fruit – so I simply use my Blossom Booster every 2 weeks, half strength, until the end of July. I have been known to also use a granulated slow release tomato and veggie food also. Think of it this way – every time you water your pots, water runs out the bottom. Water your pots a little first with plain water then, use some of the water with fertilizer in it. This fertilizer – water will actually go into your plant, and not just slip down the sides. Also, remember to mulch around your potted veggies to prevent soil-born diseases from bouncing up on the bottoms of your plants during heavy summer rains.

Now – onto my specific varieties of “Babies.” I have already ranted about Sun Sugar Tomato. This bright orange cherry tomato produces 100’s of small thin-skinned fruit that kids pop like candy. I I often pick whole colanders to set our on our break room table for everyone to eat. This year I am trying “Cherry Pop” – a Burpee tomato. So, I have to whine about “Burpee” veggies. They are not varieties exclusive to Burpee. In fact, it is kind of like Cheddar Cheese. Sargento has cheddar cheese, Kraft has cheddar cheese, Crystal Farms has cheddar cheese. Cheddar Cheese is cheddar cheese. In other words, “Burpee” Better Boy tomato is simply the same Better Boy tomato we have been selling and you have been growing for years. It is a Better Boy tomato. “Burpee” has simply put their stamp of approval on it, and a Grower has put/grown it in a fancier pot stamped with the Burpee name. You throw away the port have to recycle it, so I do not feel it necessary to put it in a fancier pot – what are your thoughts on this? Feel free to email me.

Okay – onto more “Babies.” Cherry Punch tomato is indeed a Burpee exclusive – some are. These little tomatoes only get 24” tall and produce 1” fruits that have 30% more Vitamin C and 40% more lycopene than the average tomato Honey Nut Baby Butternut Squash weigh in at just 1 pound! These grow on vines that climb. They take approximately 110 days from sowing to harvest, but at just 4-5” tall, I am looking forward to a Fall-Winter feast. These are squash that store well for months. Baby Persian Cucumbers Green Fingers are ready to pick when they are just 3-5” long. This is a quick to harvest, smooth thin-skinned cucumber – you are often picking at just 60 days. These are usually only found in Middle Eastern markets. Yummo! The peppers I am growing are Baby Belles. Yummy Belles are new to me this year. This pepper was bred in the Czech Republic by a family owned seed house. The plants will 3-4” minis just perfect for snacking, stir fry, or salads. Plus, they’re orange in color! And finally, Baby Watermelon Little Baby Flower. These vines will produce 5.5” icebox red watermelons that weigh just 2-4 pounds each, in only 70 days. I love watermelon, but usually enjoy at someone else’s house because I can’t eat a whole one up before it spoils. So, I am really looking forward to these!

I am going to post up pics of my “Baby” plants throughout summer on our Facebook page. Check us out and “like us.” Your comments are always appreciated. I will take and post a pic of my Easy Pick Gold Baby Zucchini – I planted them Memorial Day and I already have 8 forming on the plants (on June 9th.) Enjoy summer!

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Grower To Grower

Garden phlox have been in my garden for as far back as I can remember. My parents had the creeping phlox spilling over a cement wall in our backyard. I remember them as the first bright color splash in spring. I was always disappointed they bloomed such a short time. Garden phlox are an old-fashioned flower that brings to mind romantic cottage gardens and warm summer landscapes. This plant is a native and you can spot it along roadsides and fields in early summer. The earliest cultivars were developed in Europe in the 1880’s, eventually finding their way home over time. Nowadays, new cultivars are being developed and these beauties are not our grandma’s phlox anymore.

Garden phlox are best grown in moist well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. They are extremely hardy and adapt well to many regions. They perform the best when summer nights are cool. The phlox, unfortunately, is susceptible to a number of diseases and pests. The summer’s high humidity and warm temperatures bring on the pesky fungal disease known as powdery mildew.

Mildew affects the leaves, stems and flowers. White powdery spots can cover entire leaves and infected leaves eventually fall off the plant. Powdery mildew does not kill the plants outright. Over time it can weaken the plant, draining needed nutrients from the leaves. Your best line of defense is to choose cultivars that resist the mildew. A number of cultural practices also help. Plant phlox in full sun, eliminate overhead watering, thin out plants to increase air flow through and around plants. Clean up infected leaves and stems that may over-winter in soils. Fungicides applied early as a preventative and also during hot, humid days may also help.

Rabbits and deer love phlox. Fencing your plants and using repellent sprays can help keep them at bay. Spider mites can be a problem when summer days are hot and dry. Don’t let your plants get stressed by drying out. Insect soaps and sprays can help control infestations.

I have grown P. paniculata ‘Laura,’ ‘Bright Eyes,’ and ‘David’ over the years. They are extremely resistant to mildew. A new intro a few years back was the Flame Series of tall garden phlox. They also show good disease resistance.

New cultivars are being tested every year. Look for some of the following to show up in coming seasons. ‘Thai Pink Jade’ has soft pink flowers with darker pink eyes. The Top Shelf series, named after well-known cocktails, have bright red eyes, that grab your attention. ‘Red Caribbean,’ ‘Purple Kiss,’ ‘Watermelon Punch’ and ‘Cosmopolitan’ are worth taking a look at. The Candy Store series offers fragrant, brightly colored flowers on compact bushy plants.

In the world of tall garden phlox, pink is king. From light to dark, pure to muddy, solid to striped, you can have it all. Now if only they can make them taste bad to rabbits and deer!

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Teresa’s Pieces

Whoa! Summer is buzzin’ by faster than a hornet bee-lining for the honeycomb!

As much as I love annuals I hate to admit that sometimes I get tired of replanting them every year. Some annuals reseed themselves year after year, allowing you to enjoy a repeat performance with out all the work.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you work with encore annuals. They don’t resow in a straight line, so they are better used in a casual garden then a formal one. You’ll need to learn what the seedlings look like as baby ones often remember weeds. For the first few seasons watch self-sowers closely, then remove any that look like they’re growing out of control.

There are many annuals that reseed; the five that I’m writing about reseed so heavily that you’ll get great results even if you only allow a few plants to shed seeds.

The most sought after color in the garden – blue – can become a summer fave by planting Bachelor’s Buttons (A.K.A. cornflowers or bluebottles.) Their seedlings appear close to last year’s plants, though rowdy birds often drop seeds in unexpected places. Unwanted seedlings can be pulled up or transplanted to a spot where you want them to grow.

Impatiens, often called “Busy Lizzie” reseeds itself in a moist, part-shade location. Baby peanuts pop up in late spring and rapidly grow into 2 feet tall adults. In early summer, then plants to 12-14 inches apart to keep them from toppling over.

One of my all-time faves is cleome. The long, whiskery stamens that grow from the blossoms give cleome the nickname of spider flower. The seeds are encapsulated in bean-like seedpods. By midsummer the plants will reach 4-5 feet tall. Trimming them back to about 3 feet will limit the number of seeds, keep cleome stocky, and prolong bloom time

Morning glory will twine its way up just about everything it comes in contact with so be aware of this when planting. To be on the safe side, plant it far away from cultivated beds. Growing morning glories next to a hard surface or mowed area limits their ability to self-sow.

One of the grandparents of pansies, viola (Johnny jump-ups) stays compact, only reaching about 8 inches tall and will naturalize along walkways and beneath roses. The seeds of viola are borne in slipper-shaped pods that will burst open and shoot seeds several feet; cool!

Growing reseeding annuals that will thrive in your particular climate helps them flower and produce seeds. Warm-natured flowers like more moss rose, melampodium, and cosmos are excellent choices for our long, hot summer days. Plants such as poppy and larkspur bloom strongest and longest and reseed best where summers are cool.

If you want more encore annuals in your garden choose old-fashioned heirloom varieties. Annual gaillardia and petunia integrifolia (hybrid petunias) are a few oldies but goodies that produce bumper crops of seeds.

For an extra cache of seeds to have on hand or to share with family, friends and neighbors, gather seeds and store them indoors.

First, wait til the blossoms start to shatter, or seedpods turn from green to brown. Collect them on a dry day. Then put blossoms in a paper bag and let dry in a warm spot for a week. After they’re dry, crumble the seeds and store in zip-loc bags. Don’t forget to label them!

Happy flower power hours!

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KZ’s Kreative Korner

June is National Rose Month, but you can do these rose crafts all summer long!

Roses have been the symbol of love for the longest time. It’s fragrance is both calming and sensual The oils in the rose also has numerous benefits. Actually, the more fragrance a rose has, the more oil it produces.

This first recipe is to make rose water. A lot of crafts using roses will require the use of rose water. It’s super simple and what better way to use up really opened rose petals than this!

Rose water is the product of distilling rose petals. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A large pot with a lid
  • A stainless steel bowl (small enough to fit inside the pot)
  • Ice
  • Water
  • 2-3 quarts of rose petals
  1. Put the petals in the stainless steel bowl and pour enough water to cover the petals.
  2. Put the bowl inside the pot and pour water inside the pot so that the rim of the bow is higher than the water by a few inches.
  3. Cover the pot with the lid turned upside down and bring the petals to a boil.
  4. Once the water is boiling, fill the upside down lid with ice. Reduce the heat to a little simmer for about 2 hours.
  5. Add ice as needed and keep checking to make sure enough water is covering the petals.

The condensation from the heat/ice will drip into the bowl leaving pure rose water. You can use the rose water in a number of things including food and natural home remedies. Try adding rose water to frosting for your cupcakes!

Here’s another quick one to use as a face mask for both men and women! Here’s the ingredients:

  • 6-8 rose petals (remember, the higher fragrance, the more oils)
  • 2 tablespoons of rose water
  • 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  1. Soak the rose petals in rose water for about one hour.
  2. Then crush the petals in a bowl.
  3. Mix in the yogurt and honey.
  4. Apply the mix/paste to the face for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Rinse and your face will feel so refreshed!

These are only a few things you can do with roses….experiment and come up with your own creations! You’ll love roses if you didn’t before!

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Fashion Trends = Flower Trends = Color Trends. You have seen me write about this before. You also have seen me write about trends in Europe before they come to the United States. I had the pleasure of attending what is called IPM in Essen, Germany a few years ago. This even takes place in January and has over 70,000 attendees, just like me. Attendees come from all over the world. They are Floral Designers, Garden Center Owners, Growers of Plants, and more. Entire countries have Pavilions – such as Italy: all kinds of woody ornamental trees and Italien terra cotta pots, Israel: famous for its fuchsia hybridization and herbs, and Germany: with its beautiful ceramic pottery (which we sell at La Crosse Floral.)

This year there was no doubt that Gray is the neutral, with taupe close behind; that chartreuse, purple, pink, raspberry and aquamarine are the colors to pair with them (with orange making in roads); that natural materials still rock and glass and polished metal lend sparkle; and that black and white remains a classic. (Source-greenPROFIT, March 2014) Now that you know this, think about the United States and the top home décor stores (Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn) – you will see the same features in their stores, their catalogues, and on their websites. We have carried an alternate to the typical terra cotta pots which is referred to as Moka Clay. It is a taupe/gray in hue. We are just on the cusp of this trend in La Crosse. I recently painted my kitchen a taupe color. And I must say that I am starting to build my “gray” wardrobe.

Another TREND as mentioned, is to show visible soil and roots. Do you remember those big hurricane drink glasses from Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans? This could be a vessel for an orchid plant, or a succulent, or a tillandsia. Even a simple glass cylinder becomes trend when you shelter a houseplant in it-show off the dirt—oops, I mean soil, and the roots! I recently saw some ceramic pots that had a silver metal finish with scored lines on them. Almost 3 years ago I bough stainless steel mixing bowls at IKEA and put plants in them. Bromeliads look super when placed in metal containers. Instead of moss, top dress your plants with marbles or flat stones!

When you pair color with Gray, the color “pops.” Think of this year’s Pantone Color of the Year – Radiant Orchid. Of course it plays well with gray or taupe. Yellow is staring to become an accent also. I recently purchased a comforter for my bed which was gray, yellow and white. I saw it in a magazine. The magazine was Better Homes and Gardens – an American shelter magazine that many of us turn to for TRENDS. Texture is also where it is at these days. Indentations that are geometric (think of the Milwaukee Domes) and those that are very free form are all the rage.

Natural materials reign supreme in contrast to all the glass and metal we see. Of course, everyone is using burlap – whether as a binder, a container, a ribbon, or even a sack. Wood, bark, branches, vines, cork, and woven reeds pair well with gray and taupe. I have mentioned midollino before. I view it as the next BIG thing after Ting Ting. Remember ting ting? The curly glittered thin pieces you stick in plants? You can also find branches like kuwa, matsumoto, and kiwi vine. As we move towards the fall season, think beyond birch, beyond dogwood. Add texture to your outdoor potted plants. The days are shorter, the sun is less intense and you’ll need to switch out your containers anyway for the Fall Festivals and all the parties and cookouts your be hosting. Enjoy summer!

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Birthday Club Salad

This recipe comes to us form Barb, who works out in the Garden Center. YUMMO!

Salad: 1 ½ – 2 stalks of romaine lettuce – cut into bite size pieces

1 bag of spring mix lettuce

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese

1 red pepper – cut into narrow strips

1 cup caramelized pecans

1 large granny smith apple – unpeeled and cut into narrow strips

Sliced red onion to your taste

Dressing: ½ cup sugar

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 tbsp poppy seeds

¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp. paprika

Toss together with dressing right before serving.