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Vol. 23, No. 2 April / May / June 2015 - La Crosse Floral

In this issue:


Did you know?

Singles Day is celebrated annually in China on Nov 11th.  This special day is a festivity of singlehood by purchasing gifts/merchandise on the internet for you and your single friends.  Singles Day was promoted in China by Alibaba in 2009.  In 2013, Singles Day sales surpassed $9 Billion Dollars in China.  Compare that to only $1.7 Billion Dollars on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) in the US.  WOW!


Flower Facts

Easter lilies are a sure and beautiful sign of spring, but keep them away from kitty.  The leaves of the plant are poisonous to cats and cause vomiting, lethargy, kidney failure and even death.  If your cat has gnawed or eaten Easter lily leaves, get your pet to the vet immediately!  According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, kitties are the only animal affected.


Top 10 Challenges of Being a Gardener

Most people don’t think that being a Gardener is something hard to do. In fact, it looks so easy, even a 5 year old could do it. Wrong! To be a Gardener, we have to overcome all the challenges. Here are the top 10 challenges of being a Gardener.

  1. The right plant for the right space and area.
  2. When to prune and “deadhead” plants.
  3. How and when to plant.
  4. The difference between “good” and “bad” soil.
  5. When to water.
  6. The right amount of shade and sun required for plants.
  7. How to garden with wildlife.
  8. How to plant in a raised bed.
  9. How to plant in pots.
  10. When to fertilize.


Garden Glossary

Hardscaping – The use of stairs, paths, patios or terraces that connect the home to the landscape.

Everlasting – A plant whose flowers can be prepared for dried arrangements.



Dr. Greenthumb

I always look forward to this time of year when spring brings green to the Coulee Region.  The earliest spring flower one year was the Skunk Cabbage on February 22nd.  The blooming dates can vary a month from year to year.  I have kept a diary of events for more that sixty years, recording first birds, first wild flowers, and even unusual temperatures and precipitation.  If I lived in an area in the south with basically one season all these changes would not occur.  The weather in Wisconsin is unpredictable.  One winter can be warm and the next cold.  Last year my notes say the coldest day was March 3rd when we had -21°F., and on the 10th it was 54°F.  One year it snowed on May 8th and I have a photo to prove it.  On the south sides of our bluffs the snow melts off sooner and pasque flowers appear first in those locations.  Pasque flowers at one time covered the prairie of La Crosse before the city covered the area.  I’m ready with my camera – so think spring.

Dr. G.

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The Little Sprout

Yippee Skippy!  It is time to think Container Veggie Growing again!!!  One of the advantages of growing flowers and veggies in pots is that we can often plant them earlier than our fellow gardeners who have to wait for the frost to be out of the ground.  On a cold night in April or May, I just throw some ratty old sheets over my pots.

I want you to reference a previous newsletter to get you all excited – the July/August/Sept. 2014 newsletter is crammed with a lot of great info on my success story with growing “baby’ veggies and fruits in pots.  If you can’t find your copy – it is archived on our website – www.lacrossefloral.net   In that article I spoke of how to plant and grow in pots.  PLUS, I gave you my favorites, including:  Easy Pick Gold Zucchini, Baby Belle Peppers, Watermelon Little Baby Flower, Baby Persian Cucumbers “Green Fingers”, and, of course, – San Marzano Tomatoes (you will never grow a Roma tomato again!).  In addition, if you go to our FaceBook page, I have pictures from my rooftop garden, AND recipes.

Did you know 2015 is the “Year of the Sweet Pepper”?  Yep – and to think I grew up in a house without any peppers – I think I am making up for lost time.  A serving of the most popular type in the US – the sweet bell – contains more Vitamin C than the average orange, a generous amount of Vitamin E, and many antioxidants, with only 29 calories.  There are so many peppers beyond what you see in the grocery store year ‘round.  Sweet peppers come in many shapes as well: the elongated banana, the blocky bell, the oblong or “half-long” bells, flat “cheese” shapes, and smooth cherry types.  Sweet bell peppers are a cultivar of Capsicum annum.  Currently capsicum includes at least 25 species, four of which are domesticated.

Sweet Peppers are called sweet because they do not produce capsaicin – a chemical that causes a “burning” sensation when consumed (or when they come in contact with the eyes or nose, etc.).  Sweet Peppers lack capsaicin due to a recessive form of a gene that eliminates capsaicin.  Sweet Peppers are actually a fruit (because they come from a flowering plant and contain seeds) but are treated and spoken of as a vegetable.

To get you thinking of Sweet Peppers this spring, here is what we will offer in the “sweet” lineup:  Baby Belles, Better Belle, Cute Stuff Gold, Cute Stuff Red, Giant Marconi, Early Sensation, Karma, Orange Blaze, and Tangerine Dream.

Not to be outdone, the Hot Pepper lineup is:  Garden Salsa, Habañero, Jalapeño, and Mosquetero (a cross between an Ancho and a Poblaño).

Peppers like a sunny spot.  If growing directly in the ground – please do rotate – meaning: 1. Do not grow in the same place as last year AND 2. Do not grow in the same place as tomatoes and eggplants. Yet another reason to grow these healthy veggies in a pot. Late afternoon planting causes the least amount of stress to plants, whether in a pot or in the ground, giving them a good night’s sleep to adjust before they need to survive the first day of sun.  If in pots, they do not like temps below 55° F.  Cover them up, or drag into a garage if needed.  Mulch!  And taper off on fertilizer, especially nitrogen after the plants flower.  Excess nitrogen encourages the plants to grow more leaves – not to set the fruit – so back off.  Pepper plants grown in pots are often smaller in stature, but usually mature earlier.  It is perhaps one of the easiest veggies to grow in a pot.  Do not get water on leaves.  If growing in a pot, make sure the container is deeper than it is wide – usually a 2 gallon pot or bigger (relate size to the ice cream you buy in a store – easy peasy).  I think Grower Linda C. was jealous of my pepper harvest last year, and may even grow her own in pots this year.  Happy munching!

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Grower To Grower

In the fall with winter approaching, it helps to be pouring over my catalogs and planning for the spring season.  I think we all want our gardens to be as beautiful as they were last year and maybe even better.  I’d like to share a few of the new plants for this spring that we are growing.

Supertunias continue to win awards for their excellent performance in all uses in the garden.  Black Cherry and Limoncello lead us off as two of the new intros for 2015. Black Cherry reminds me of a nice, ripe Bing cherry.  Limoncello has the soft lemon color in the center surrounded by a lighter yellow.  They both will add a lot to baskets, mixed pots, and window boxes.  Two new Supertunia charm colors join Charm Pink.  The Supertunia “charm” offers you smaller flowers, but by mid summer it spreads to create a HUGE mound with just one plant.  Charm Rose Blast and Charm Morning Glory give you everything the regular Supertunias have, but in a miniature flower form.

The array of colors offered in Sun Coleus makes it easy to put a container together. Beauty of Lyon is a new upright selection for both sun or shade.  Narrower leaves of orange and peach are edged in green.  We have also added three new trailing coleus this year. Tell Tale Heart is chartreuse with a burgandy blotch in the center. Green Lantern is the only trailer with lime foliage.  It will make combos pop in the shade.  Zooey is a unique, free spirited selection!  Leaves look like feathers with a lime-gold background splashed with tart cherry-red.  Zooey forms a low mound, just enough to cover a pot edge or soften a border.

Bounce and Big Bounce impatiens offer an exciting new shade alternative to the regular walleriana impatiens.  They are resistant to downy mildew and thrive in partial sun and shade.  Even better, they Bounce right back like magic after wilting down without loss of buds or flowers.  Bounce Red is perfect for baskets and patio pots.  Big Bounce Pink Flame spreads three feet and is best used in the landscape and large containers.

The verbenas of 5 plus years ago always seemed to end up with powdery mildew by mid summer.  They usually had fewer flowers and burned out in the middle.  I was always impressed with the color ranges offered, from solid balls of color to the beautiful reds, pinks and purples with white centers.  This year we introduce three new verbena hybrids.  Blues doesn’t go crazy, but branches nicely and the flowers go straight to the tips.  They peek out in mixed baskets and combos.  Blues Lavender and Blues Rose both have the white eyes.  Pops have a mounded, compact growth habit.  They bloom extra early and spread out nicely in the landscape.  Pops Burgundy pairs well with yellows, pinks, oranges and white.  Endurascape verbenas are truly unique.  It is the first verbena that’s hardy to the low teens, meaning it will grow through frost in the fall.  It takes the heat of summer and never stops blooming.  Endurascape Red and Purple rev up the color in the landscape.  Staying low at about one foot, they spread out almost two feet.  The best part about the three new hybrids is the fact they all have excellent powdery mildew resistance.

Do you love strawberries?  How about pineapple?  Now you can have the best of both!  Get ready to meet the Hula Berry.  This is an all white strawberry with bright red seeds.  Its excellent flavor and aroma are reminiscent of pineapple.  Its unique dime/nickel size fruit is perfect for any berry recipe.  Like its ancestors, this white strawberry is not self-fertile.  It needs pollen from a different variety to produce its distinctive fruit.  Sonata, a traditional, large fruited, red strawberry will be sold along with three of the Hula Berries, as a kit.  Hanging baskets, window boxes or large pots are perfect.  I’m very eager to try these.

These are a few of the selections we have lined up for you this season.  Stop in and be inspired.

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Teresa’s Pieces

I am soo-ooo-oo done with winter!  With spring soon to be upon us (hope floats!) I wanna grow something – anything – to renew and refresh my soul, my whole being!  I love salads, and fresh picked, homegrown greens are the bomb!

Spring Lettuce

Lettuce is considered a cool weather crop, so most gardeners sow seed as soon as the ground can be worked.  Diehard green thumbs sow seed indoors in flats, starting in mid-February.  Some top picks for spring include butterhead “Burpee Bibb”, crisphead “Mini Green”, looseleaf “Tango”, and romaine “Little Caesar”.  Early lettuce varieties can tolerate a light frost and can be transplanted before the last frost date.  Be sure to “harden-off” seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor temps.

Summer Lettuce

Believe it or not, summer is actually a difficult season to grow lettuce.  With the right varieties and some T.L.C. it’s totally feasible to have a good crop.  Plant heat-tolerant looseleaf types such as looseleaf “Prizeleaf”, French Batavian “Sante Fe”, and butterhead “Buttercrunch”.  Protect lettuce from the hot afternoon sun by providing some shade.  If that’s not possible, grow under lattice, stretch a cloth over the bed, or plant your crop on the north side of the garden.  Provide consistent water, especially during dry periods.  A good soaking once or twice a week is sufficient.

Autumn Lettuce

The same varieties that you planted in spring will also grow well in fall, tolerate late summer heat and survive light frosts.  Start your fall choices indoors and transplant them later, as seed won’t germinate in soil above 80 degrees.  Like summer lettuces, provide some shade and cover the plants when a hard frost is imminent.

Winter Lettuce

Say what?  Well, if you live in Zone 5 and higher this is possible. Lettuce that survives the winter will quickly show new growth as spring arrives, and you’ll get tasty lettuce long before the spring planted crops are good to go.  Select varieties like romaine “Winter Density”, butterhead “Arctic King”, and looseleaf “Winterwunder”, as they can tolerate short days and cold weather.  Sow your crop late in summer or fall.  This allows the plants to set roots and develop true leaves before Old Man Winter sets in.  Lettuce will perform the best if grown in a cold frame, allowing you to harvest throughout the winter.  Cloches and other covers protect tender crops also.  Winter lettuces do “hibernate” but will bounce back when temps get above 45°.  Make sure to harvest before it gets too warm.  Longer days and temps about 70° will cause bolting.

Pick and partake!  The awesome attribute of leaf lettuce is that you can harvest the outer leaves as soon as they’re big enough to eat, usually about 25 days after sowing.  Cutting only a few leaves at a time allows each plant to continue to leaf-out, giving you a longer harvest time.  Most leaf lettuces are the cut-and-come again varieties – you can cut everything except the center of the head.  When plants finally bolt, rip ‘em out and sow the next crop.

Allow crisped lettuce to grow to full maturity.  The wrapper leaves will protect the heads from sun and heat.  When the lettuce head becomes firm and crisp, sever at the base and start a new crop.

OOO, LA, LA!  Marvelous mesclun!  Mesclun is the French word for “mixed salad greens” – it isn’t a type of lettuce.  To grow your own mesclun, mix various greens together in the same garden space.  Don’t do just lettuce; go a little cray-cray and try purslane, chicory, arugula, cress, sorrel, chervil – hey! – whatever salad greens you enjoy the most.  Mix it up a bit for a delicious blend of shapes, colors and textures.  Then harvest and create your own yummy specialty salad; add some avocado, tomato, cukes, red onion, etc., to jazz it up.  Try your creation with my dressing recipe!

*Delish Dressing*

This dressing is tangy and light, and won’t weigh down your tender greens.

1/4 C. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

2 TBS. Balsamic or red wine vinegar

2 Tsp. sugar (I use Truvia or Skinny Girl agave nectar)

1 Tsp. Dijon mustard

S & P

and, of course!, some herbs – fresh dill, chives, mint, a minced garlic clove and a hint of lemon juice pulls it all together.  Just shake or mix, pour on your salad and enjoy!

So, let us sow, let us grow some lettuce!

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KZ’s Kreative Korner

We really did get the winter blues this year. I mean literally….hardly any sun this winter. Well, summer is coming, I promise. It will be here in no time. So, when it gets here, let’s enjoy the sun as much as we can before we get another no sun winter. YUCK!

Enjoy the sun outside playing games all day. Make these games in no time and for not a lot of money!

Silly Backyard Jenga

You will need 8-8 foot long 2×4’s (The store can cut and sand them for you for cheap. They should be cut up into 10.5” pieces). Each 2×4 will give you 7 pieces. The original Jenga game contains 54 pieces so you will eventually end up with 2 leftover pieces just in case there are any bad ones.

Then stack them all up to make sure they line up nicely.

On one side of each piece, write down a silly action. For example, on one piece, write “Do the chicken dance.” On another piece, write “Talk for the rest of the game with an English accent.”

Once you are finished writing on all your pieces, you can start the game. This is such a fun outdoors family game. You and your family will have tons of laughs for sure.

Backyard Twister

You are going to need:

* a big box with a circle cut out on the bottom

* spray paint cans—red, blue, yellow, and green

* the original Twister Game

Use your box as a stencil. Spray paint 6 circles lined up just like in the game twister with each paint can. You can use the original game to reference too.

Let the circles dry first. Use the spinner board from the original game to play and get ready for a twist of laughs with your family.

Giant Backyard Checkers

What you need:

* a big box with a square cut out on the bottom

* spray paint cans—red and black

* 58-5 gallon bucket lids (24 and a couple extras for Kings)

* the original Checkers Game

Start out by painting your bucket lids. Paint half black and half red.

While the lids are drying, use your box as a stencil your Checkers board. Use your original Checkers game as a reference.

Once your “board” is dried outside, you are ready to play your Giant Backyard Checkers.

Have fun with all these backyard family games for those awesome summer days and nights!

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Even though this is the “Spring Garden” issue of our newsletter, I want to take the space in this Trends column to write about the style of the 1970’s – really.  It is a GROOVY RAD style that is on its way back with respect to Houseplants.  You may have noticed that much of the trend furniture in places like IKEA, Target, and Crate & Barrel, is reflective of the 1970’s.  If you are on Pinterest at all, you will also find that Houseplants are trendy again.  Decorators on HGTV and even Walmart merchandisers are creating Trend Displays that incorporate houseplants.

So – what are some of the plants/trends from the 1970’s that we are revisiting?

1.Philodendron, 2. Mother-in-Law (Sansevaria), 3. Cactus and Succulents, 4. Air Plants (Tillandsia), 5. Rubber Plants (ficus decora), 6. Fiddle Leaf (ficus lyrata), and 7. Terrariums.

First let us take a look at the old standby Philodendron.  What’s old is new again.  To me, the plain green philodendron plant, while easy to grow, gets so stringy!  There are long spaces between the leaves as they mature.  Bring on the philodendron “cousins” of 2015, please.  My favorites include:  1. Neon Pothos – a lime green standout that stays nice and chunky.  This looks great indoors, brightening up a dark corner.  It looks equally as beautiful outdoors in a small mixed pot in deep shade.  Remember – this grows slowly, does not get stringy, and is a low light plant.  2. Brasil Philodendron – This looks like the dark green leaf of a regular philodendron but has lime green markings on the leaves.  It, too, grows slowly and does not have the long stringy appearance of its older cousin.  3. Pothos n’Joy – This little round leafed beauty is white and green.  Again, this is a slow grower, loves lower light, and has low water requirements.

Mother-in-Law plant, or sansevaria as it is know in the world of horticulture, comes in SO many different varieties.  However, the gold standard and less floppy variety is called “Gold Band”.  This vertical plant is being found in trendy multi-million dollar lofts in New York City, to hip coffee and cupcake cafes in places like Minneapolis.  Europe has totally embraced this plant, which is why you will find it as a silk plant in places like IKEA.  A low version of sansevaria, referred to as Birdnest Sansevaria,, is even found as a tablescape in hotels in Las Vegas.

Cacti and Succulents are HUGE!  Cactus are being used as very large specimen plants for an architectural element in both indoor and outdoor spaces.  With our “staycations” in our own backyards, the use of agaves, yuccas, and even barrel cactus – is here to stay.  Succulents are everywhere from wedding bouquets to funky low bowls on the patio, to being set in any glass bowl you have in your cupboards.  A newer houseplant that I really like is called ZZ plant.  It is a prehistoric plant that offers interesting texture via its waxy leaves.  There is also now an EZ plant.  These super easy, carefree plants are one of the few plants you can have in your home, go on vacation for 3 weeks, come home, water, and the plant is alive and looks super.

Air Plants are SO 1970’s!  I remember selling them glued onto seashells.  Air Plants continue to grow in popularity.  What I love about Air Plants – or tillandsias – is their easy care.  Occasionally they like to be submerged in water for a few hours, or misted.  How you display them is entirely up to you – lay them on a piece of driftwood you collected on a trip to Door County, place on a polished slice of agate, create a little scene inside a glass sphere, or use fish line to tie into an aluminum wire frame or support.  Very trend, very easy, very unusual.

On to Ficus – and I am not talking about your same old same old fig trees.  Did you know the Rubber Plant is in the Ficus family?  You may have discovered that when you broke off a leaf and noticed a latex white sap dripping out.  The one and only Rubber Plant to consider in 2015 is the Burgundy Rubber.  It is simply gorgeous – and naturally shiny. It is a deep brownish-red mahogany in color.  This medium light plant is easy to grow, easy to trim back, and offers large leaf drama.  Ficus lyrata, or Fiddle Leaf Fig, is a great oxygenator for your home – meaning it will help to improve air quality in your house.  Large, large leaves mean high drama again for a great architectural element.  Are you in an apartment like me?  Try “Little Fiddle” – with its miniature leaves. This tree form plant will fit in most small spaces quite nicely.  You will feel like you brought the outdoors in.

And finally – terrariums.  Again – so ’70’s!  I remember stocking round bubble bowls, and planting many once used fish tanks.  Today, a terrarium is simply another extension of miniature gardening.  A terrarium really is a mini all plant retreat.  No accessories are required.  The creation of Ittie Bitties – small leaved houseplants that have been miniaturized with a temporary growth-inhibitor, have made terrariums even easier than before.  Terrariums really just need plants that can be trimmed back for about 1-2 years without the need to replant.

So – if you’re “20-something” and new to plants, OR if you’re like me, and in your “50’s” – the newer versions of the great Houseplants of the 1970’s are here.  Let us help you purify your indoor air.

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Curry Chicken Salad


* 2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed

* 2 stalks of celery, sliced

* 1-2 cups red grapes

* 3 green onions, sliced

* ½ cup of chopped pecan

* 1 cup of mayo (salad dressing)

* 1-2 tablespoons of curry to taste.

Toss everything together and enjoy!