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  Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
 

  

If you're looking out your window and all you see is snow, than you're not looking hard enough at your garden for the possibilities. Look at your evergreens at their shape; are they conical, rounded, cylindrical, or even weeping in appearance? Think character. They are "Green Giants," guarding your house from the cold wind of winter and they are home for your birds to stay warm and sheltered.

Your deciduous trees have no leaves of green or autumn gold--but look at how their branches grow. Do the branches grow like a ladder, growing straight across like open arms looking to welcome the arrival of spring? Are they growing upright like they are cheering on the sunshine to come back and warm us up or are they drooping down like they are fed up with all the winter weather?

Look at the bark of the birch trees and think of how the Native Americans made canoes with its bark to move across this great land on the water. The weeping willow, with its golden bark cascading branches that sway with the wind will tell you, "it's windy out here and you better dress for it."

The hollies are covered with red berries to feed the birds during the stormy days of winter and welcome the new birds that will arrive in the warmth of spring. The evergreen leaves on the plant are telling you that soon pure white flowers will bring a new season--one of warmth and sunshine.

Your rhododendrons will tell you how to dress your children during the winter. Look carefully and you will see that the colder the temperatures are, the tighter the leaves will curl up, like a good hug to warm up with. If they look like pencils, be sure to put on your hat and gloves because, baby it's cold outside!

The bark of the red twig dogwood is shiny and smooth right now, as it pokes through the deep snow cover. Is it telling you that Valentine's Day is just a few weeks away and not to forget your sweetheart, or you will be left out in the cold snow?

The ornamental grasses that are now brown and tattered with wind swept flowers on them look tired. But look closely--they are telling you what direction the wind is blowing, like a weather vane on your roof.

Your magnolias have big fat flower buds on the tip of the branches and they are ready to burst open with bright white flowers just like the snow on the ground. Yes, you will like the color white better as flowers when spring arrives, right?

You cannot see the grass now and that is a good thing, because you are fed up with all it took to make it grow, to keep it green, and the work it took to mow it and care for it. When the snow melts, you will love the sight of it and your senses will soon crave the fragrance of a fresh-cut lawn. Remember running barefoot through it?

Your spring-flowering bulbs are buried deep in the ground now and would love to see a bit of sunshine just like you, believe me. As soon as the snow melts, they will jump right out of the ground and fill your world with every color of the rainbow to lift your spirits after this long winter. Just wait. They will be out soon.

I can hear your forsythias calling you to come out of the house now and prune some branches from them. Just cut a few branches 2 to 3 feet tall and bring them inside your home. Put them in a tall vase of water and in just 2 weeks the spring flowers of golden yellow will help cheer you up and help melt all that snow. Do that pruning now, as the snow could get deeper later.

Go to your tool shed and bring in a small pot filled with soil. Add a bit of grass seed; set it on your window sill and in just two weeks it will be growing. One night when all are paying attention to the television set, place the pot of green grass on the hassock. Now take off your shoes and socks and let the grass tickle your feet. The reaction will be wonderful and you will feel better.

To help make you feel better about winter, think about this:

Daylight Saving is March 9, and that is only 32 days away.

The first day of spring and official end of winter is March 20--and that is only 43 days away!

 

It will all be over soon and you can then plant some new ideas for next year!

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The leaves are large, hairy, medium green, and heart-shaped; the veins on the leaves seem to be sunken into the foliage, making them very noticeable and interesting. The leaves also have a slight sheen to them--and when the plant needs water, they will almost look dull and have no sheen. This will tell you it is time to water. The plant does drink a lot of water, because of the number and the size of the leaves on the plant. Some leaves can get up to eight inches across. The plant looks clean and seldom has disease problems on the foliage.

The flowers come in many styles, depending on variety. Look for single, semi-double, and double daisy-like blooms. The flowers come in clusters on top of the foliage and form small flower clusters from side branches. The daisy-like flower will be one inch or less in diameter. The center of the daisy starts off the same color as the flower petals and as it ages will turn yellow with pollen dust.

The flowers come in many colors and include some varieties with two-tone blooms. Look for shades of pink, shades of blue, shades of purple and shades of red. The new hybrids have a white stripe on the individual petals, creating a band around the flower. Some of the flowers may even have more white color than the original flower color. Each individual flower will vary between white and color, even on the same plant.

Place the plants in a bright window or room with a lot of light. Because there is so much foliage on this plant, keep the plant on the cool side--50 to 60 degrees. Hot sunny windows will shorten the life of the flowers and the plant will not bloom as long. Water as needed to keep the plant moist most of the time; again, because of all the leaves on the plant. But never keep them wet or standing in a saucer filled with water, or the roots will rot and the plant will die. If you have a wood or coal stove, keep them away from the hot room. If you heat with forced hot air, keep them away from the heating vents, or the leaves will dry up here and there on the plant.

Drafty windows will also chill the plant--like all other plants. I like to keep one on the table in the middle of the room where I can enjoy it more. Cinerarias are wonderful plants for you or as a gift. At this time of the year, when we all need a sign that spring is coming, this plant is wonderful for your mind and soul. Let the snow fall, because I have a cineraria in my house and I don't care about the weather outside.

 

 

If you are looking for an old fashioned or heirloom-type shrub, look no further than the Kerria japonica. When I first saw this plant in the nursery, I was NOT impressed. It looked like a container filled with lime-green twigs, no real character. As spring arrived, the kerria began to develope small one-inch golden-yellow flowers on the first twelve inches of every branch. My interest in this plant began to increase. Then one day, on the way to my son's soccer game, my interest exploded when I came across a large planting in a wooded area. After the soccer game, I stopped to take a closer look and I was hooked on this plant. The small, unimpressive Kerria plant had grown up.

The forsythias had just finished flowering and the kerria was filling up the flowering plant gap time before the azaleas started. The kerria is a graceful upright growing shrub with tips that weep a little bit, growing almost like a forsythia with many new suckering branches developing at the base of the plant to keep it full looking when the leaves develop when the flower finish blooming. The flowers looked like tiny yellow carnations, double flowers and bright looking. The flowers will last 3 to 4 weeks before the foliage develops. The leaves are small, two to three inches long and 1 inch wide, almost like a birch tree.

The twiggy branches have a bright lime green color that I would later see in the winter as beautiful with snow cover. The branches are a winter treat, on those cold days. In the fall the foliage turn bright lemon yellow, with those bright green stems a great treat. If the plant likes where it is growing it will also develop a few flowers during the summer. Not many--just a few to tell you that it is in your yard.

It loves growing in a shady area but will grow in a sunny location. In a sunny location, the flowers seem to get sunburn, turning a little bit white; that is what happened in the nursery when I first saw it. In the shade, it will grow five to six feet tall and just as wide. Plant it up against a fence, near some evergreens, but if you have a backyard with many trees, plant it here and there to naturalize the area. This is a plant for all seasons--with spring flowers, summer foliage and twig color, bright fall foliage and interesting twig formation during the winter.

Kerrias will grow where many plants have not survived. They will grow in any soil, as long as there is no standing water. Acid or neutral, sandy or clay will all be fine, but the best growth will be in soil with a lot of organic matter or a woody-type soil rich in humus. Fertilize with Plant Tone or Dr Earth 4.4.4. General Purpose with Pro-Biotic--new to the east coast gardener.

Plants are insect- and disease-free, a real plus. Also, when the plant get to be too big and overgrown just cut it back in half or to the ground when it finishes flowering. Kerrias also come with a variegated foliage, but the blooms are better on the all green types.

 



Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.

   
Featured Recipe Of The Week
 

Strawberries are now coming in fresh from Florida and they are sweet and full of flavor, so lets make Muffins.

 

Fresh Strawberry Muffins

 

2-1/2 cups of all purpose flower

1/2  cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1-1/2 cups of buttermilk

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1 pint of fresh strawberries cleaned and chopped

 

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Grease muffin pan or use paper liners

 

Mix flower, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

 

Whisk butter milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract in another bowl: stir into dry mix until moistened.  Stir in Strawberries

Now spoon batter evenly into muffin pan or paper cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove muffins from pan  and serve

Warm or cool on wire rack.  Refrigerate any left over muffins. I like to sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar on the muffins tops before baking.

 
  
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