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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter




When most of us think of Squash from the garden we think of Summer, Zucchini, and Butternut but there is a lot more to please out taste buds. Here are a few of the new varieties recommended by Julius Koening of Johnny's Selected Seeds for your garden this spring.

We all love Summer Squash but this year look for the new Zephyr F1 hybrid Summer Squash. This distinctive slender straight neck summer squash is bright yellow with a pale green end where the flower was on the squash. Harvest it at 4 to 6 inches long for an unusual nutty flavor, delicate taste and a firm texture, not mushy like the traditional summer squash. Best of all it is a very heavy producer and taste great boiled, steamed or even stuffed.

The second most popular is the Zucchini Squash and now look for the traditional Italian Squash called Costata Romanesco from Italy. Medium gray and green in color with green flecks and prominent ribs on the vegetable. It will produce half as much as the traditional Zucchini squash but it has much better flavor, better texture, and a nutty and delicious flavor when eaten raw or cooked. The plant produces a heavy crop of male flowers that are great deep fried or covered with corn meal or flour and fried in a pan with butter.

Here is a new one for you the Sunburst Fi Patty Pan Squash. Plants yield heavy and the vegetable is tender. The squash is rounded but flat and scallop in shape. Appetizing color and can be picked when small, while flower is still attached to the squash for unique appearance when serving to guest. 1989 All American Winner.

Delicata JS is a unique squash that will grow 7 to 9 inches long and 3inches wide and weighing 1 to 3 pounds. Cream colored fruit with green stripes and flecks. This squash is Very sweet and excellent for stuffing and frying.

If you like Acorn Squash they you're in for a real treat with "Jester "with its superior eating quality. The squash is oval with a tapered at each end and it also has noticeable ribs. The vegetable will grow to 1 pound or more on short vines, a true space saver plant. Each vine produces 5 to 7 squash and if you let the squash cure in your basement or garage for a couple of weeks it will have more flavors when eaten. The squash will keep for up to 2 months in a cool basement or heated garage on the floor.

A Parent family favorite is the Pinnacle Spaghetti Squash for its unique texture. The first time you cook it in the oven or microwave, cut it in half and scoop out the flesh that is in a shape of spaghetti, your kids will go nuts. Season the squash with butter and grated cheese also salt and pepper, it's wonderful. The plant has high yield from a semi- bush plant saving room in the garden. Good winter keeper with 3 pound squash.

We all love Butternut Squash for its nutty like flavor and its ability to keep well most of the winter very well without losing flavor. This year look for the new Winter Sweet Butternut Squash. It will keep for 3 to 5 months in your basement without losing flavor and grows a bit smaller about 4 to 5 pounds. The flesh is lackey, sweet and orange in color, great as a side vegetable or soups.

Blue Hubbard is another staple for the winter but most of the time it is too big for most of us until now. Look for Blue Ballet a sweet smaller hybrid. Smooth shin with a blue gray color fruit 4 to 5 pounds, perfect for the average family today, not 25 to 30 pounds like the old fashion variety. It also stores very well for most of the winter and freeze's well also.

Now if you like the Butter Cup Squash look for the new hybrid called Bon Bon F1. It is described as the perfect Butter Cup Squash weighing 4 to 5 pounds with perfect flavor. It is deep green, smooth skin and the prominent gray bottom. This squash also keeps well during the winter without losing flavor.

Go to for a full list and description of their unique collection of summer and winter squash. Enjoy! 



Rhododendron Mucronulatum


Korean Rhododendron



When you look out the window today and see all the snow that covers the ground you might get discouraged--but don't, because spring is just 17 days away. Very soon all that snow will melt away. When the snow melts, the first shrub to come into bloom is the Korean rhododendron--and it will be this month!!! This wonderful plant will soon fill your garden with beautiful light rosy-purple flowers when nothing else is even thinking of flowering, and it will bloom for 4 to 6 weeks.

This rhododendron is native to Korea and winter hardy to temperatures of 20 to 30 below zero, making it a very hardy plant for the northern part of the country. It will also grow as far south as North Carolina, where it is in bloom right now. The Rhododendron mucronulatum is not widely planted, because when it is in bloom most of us are not yet thinking of visiting the nursery yet. When we finally go to the nursery it is done blooming so it does not sell well. You need to call your favorite nursery now, and ask them to get it for you so you can enjoy flowering shrubs in your yard before most of your neighbors do.

This rhododendron is unique because it will lose its foliage during the winter, making it a deciduous shrub. Most people who see this plant for the first time think it is an azalea because it has no leaves at this time of the year, and that is OK.

The Korean rhododendron will grow to 4 to 8 feet tall and just as wide. It grows upright, somewhat rounded or oval in appearance. The branches are very strong and snow damage is not a problem. The stems are light brown to dark gray, and very smooth. The plant will produce multiple stems from the base of the plant and those stems branch out, creating many new branches and buds each year.

The plant does best when planted in full sun to a bit of light shade but I have seen them growing in moderate shade if the trees are limbed up high to get good light to the plant. If you can provide a garden soil that is moist and has a lot of organic matter it, the plant will thrive. All you have to do is add compost to the ground when you plant it in your garden. Like all rhododendrons, the plant will grow better if the soil is on the acidic side so keep lime and wood ash away. All rhododendrons must have a well-drained soil, and this one is no exception. If your soil is on the clay side, plant in a raised bed and add plenty of compost. Just remember--no standing water at any time.

The plant does not look like a formal plant, more natural or wild-looking, making it a wonderful addition to naturalistic areas, mass plantings and group plantings. If you can provide evergreen plants for the background, the flowers will become even more pleasing to you and more noticeable in the early spring. I like the plant as a foundation plant on the east or west side of the house, to help hide a gas or electric meter or along a wooded border--much as you would plant a forsythia. You can also plant them in a row to make a hedge that will grow uniformly. Plant spring flowering bulbs, like daffodils, early tulips or grape hyacinths at the base of the plant for a very colorful focal point in your garden.

The foliage is 1 to 4 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide, much like a P.J.M. rhododendron, except that it is aromatic when you crush the foliage. Only medium green, not as dark as the traditional rhododendron but in the fall the foliage will turn a mixture of yellow to orange with some streaking of wine. If you rake the foliage that falls around the plant, the fragrance will be noticeable and pleasant. This fall color is later in the season and because of this becomes more noticeable in your garden.

The flowers come in clusters of 3 or more blooms on the tips of the new growth. Each flower is 1 to 1-1/2 inches long and wide and because there is no foliage on the plant, it is quite striking. The plant will make 3 to 5 inches of new growth each summer and the flower buds develop in the fall. Because the flowers come so early, you will often see early bees around the plant all excited with the find of a spring color. They will not bother you as the days are still cold and short and they know they must move fast to get the job done while the sun is still warm. If you get a few days of warm weather the flower buds may open early and some springs the cold nights can kill the delicate flowers.

Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone to help the plant grow larger and again in the fall to produce more flower buds for the following spring. Insect problems are minimal and so are disease problems, as long as you keep the plant out of wet soils. Just remember that this plant will help you to feel better at a time when you really need a sign that winter is coming to an end! Order one today





 Time to Plant Bulbs Indoors


It's time to look at the calendar, not out the window! If you planning to have tender bulbs in your summer garden, NOW is the time to start planting them in your home. Visit your local garden center and pick up such bulbs as tuberous begonias, cannas, calla lilies, caladiums, and dahlias--just to name a few. If you can start them during March in your home and transplant them to your garden in early May, these plants will bloom earlier and longer in your garden for you!

In the past, many of you have planted these summer flowering bulbs directly into the garden--and that is OK! But if you start them this month in your home, it will motivate you, encourage you, and excite you that spring is really coming. Please try it--you will feel better!

Some of you have stored these bulbs in your basement for the winter. It's now time to bring them upstairs, wake them up, repot them, and watch them come to life. These bulbs have been hibernating all winter, like you, and NOW is the time to get moving! Are you getting the message yet? It's time now!

All you will need is a good sterile potting soil mix like Miracle-Gro potting soil or the new Espoma super potting soil with microbes. Use new pots or wash your old pots with bleach before adding soil to them and then you're ready to plant. I use one cup of bleach to a gallon of water to sterilize the containers. You can reuse them year after year. Brush off any soil stuck to the pots and dip the pot in this mixture for 30 seconds. Allow them to dry and you're ready to plant--so let's clean those pots now.

Here are suggestions for pot size; tuberous begonias use 4 to 6 inch pots, cannas use 6 to 8 inch pots, calla lilies 4 to 6 inch pots, caladiums 4 to 6 inch pots, and dahlias will depend on the size of the bulbs types. Dahlias that grow 1 to 2 feet tall - use a 6 inch pot, 2 to 3 foot tall growing--use an 8 inch pot, and 3 to 6 foot tall growing--use a 10 inch pot.

When you purchase these bulbs for the first time, ask the sales person to show you what side of the bulb is up. Please do not be embarrassed to ask for help, this is new to you and you want to do it right the first time!

Planting depth is easy, usually, as most bulbs need to be covered with one inch of soil in your container. Once the bulbs have been planted, give the soil around them a good watering and place the containers where it is warm in your home. These bulbs do not need light until they begin to emerge from the soil; warmth is more important to wake them up and get them growing.

The soil should be kept moist while these bulbs develop so poke your finger into the container and feel for moisture before you water again. Until the roots form, your soil will not dry up so be careful not to over-water. Once the plant pokes through the soil, give it a good drink of water and fertilizer such as Fertilome's new Blooming and Rooting 9-59-8. This is a great fertilizer for root development and flower production on all flowering plants--especially bulbs.

Once the bulbs begin to grow move them to a sunny or brightly lit window where they will stay until they are ready to go into your garden. I spin the container every week, some times more often if I notice they are bending towards the light. This will keep them growing straight. If at all possible, choose a room that stays cool to keep the stems short and thick; if they are growing fast and thin, move them to another window that is not as hot.

Two weeks before you're going to plant them in your garden, put them outside during the day and back in the house at night to get them acclimated to the outside temperatures. Do this the first week and the second week move the plants into your garage or tool shed for the night time. If the weather is stormy during the day leave them in the tool shed or garage as they need to prepare for the move outside.

Start with just a few bulbs the first year and see how you make out. This is just another area of gardening you must learn how to do. You may fail, but you could also succeed and this is a great learning experience for you. When you succeed, pat yourself on the back and call me on Sunday to tell me all about it. If you're having problems, call me. I will be there for you. Enjoy.




The Pussy willow


If you have cabin fever and are looking for a sign that spring is near, look to the pussy willow because SPRING is just around the corner--just 10 days away. The pussy willow is a native plant to wet areas all over the northeast U.S. and is winter-hardy to 20 to 30 below zero. So if you have a wet spot on your property, you must plant the pussy willow this spring so next spring you can enjoy a sign of hope after a long winter.

The pussy willow is a tall-growing shrub; if not pruned too much, it will grow 15 to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide, about the size of a flowering crabapple. This plant is loved for one thing: its beautiful soft creamy-white catkins that form on the plant during March and April. The plant will grow upright with an oval appearance or shape. It is a plant of many trunks or branches--not a single stem plant like the flowering crabapple.

The pussy willow is fast growing; if planted in a wet area on your property it will grow 2 to 3 feet every year. The new growth is long and slender, making wonderful branches for cutting. They will look wonderful in a tall vase on your kitchen table. These branches are also very easy to force into bloom earlier than normal by just cutting the stems from the plant during February or March and placing them in a tall vase of water in a warm room. The buds will open, casting off the bud covering, and in just 7 to 10 days the soft catkins will emerge. When these buds get to the size of a jelly bean or larger, drain the vase of water, and keep them in the dry vase for several weeks.

The new growth or branches are dark brown, smooth, and shiny looking. They are about the thickness of a pencil, and the length is determined by the amount of water around the plant during the year. During the winter the stem is covered with pointed, 1/2 inch long, purple-brown buds. When the weather begins to warm up these buds will open to expose male catkins or flowers that will grow 1 to 2 inches long before turning yellow and falling from the plant. When they fall, new growth will develop and so will the foliage. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and about 1 inch wide. These leaves are dark green and the edges seem to be wavy and oval, with a dull point on the tip. This new growth starts off almost kelly green, but when they mature, the stems will quickly turn a rich dark brown.

The pussy willow will grow best in full sun but will tolerate a bit of shade late in the day. Too much shade will the make plant grow tall and thin, and it will produce few new branches with buds. This thinness will also make them vulnerable to snow damage when the snow is wet and heavy.

There is no special soil needed to grow this plant; just be sure to add plenty of compost, peat moss, or animal manure when you plant, so the roots will develop quickly in the spring. Wet soil is preferred--and this plant will help drain wet spots in your yard, making them more usable especially in the spring time. Like the giant weeping willow tree, keep this plant away from leaching fields or septic tank areas in your yards or the roots will quickly create problems for you by plugging the system.

The plant does look great all by itself but when planted in groups or in a row to create a barrier planting, it will wake up your yard in the early spring with color. If you like this plant and want to start your own plants, it is very easy to do. Take an empty half-gallon milk or juice bottle and cut off the top couple of inches of the container, fill it with soil from your garden and add water so the soil is now mud. Cut fresh pussy willows or buy fresh-cut pussy willows from your local garden center or florist and push them all the way to the bottom of the container of mud. The buds will soon fall from the branches, and make foliage and below all that mud, roots will also form quickly.

Put 3 to 5 branches in your container and arrange them to create a nice looking cluster of branches. When the foliage has grown to 3 to 5 inches long and you can see roots thru the milky plastic container it is time to transplant into your yard. Plant them as a single plant, and do not pull apart when planting. Keep wet until fall and fertilize with Plant-Tone fertilizer when you put them into the ground. The roots grow horizontally, so firm in place, but do not stamp the ground around the plant with your feet or you will break off the new roots.

If you want a truly fascinating variety, look for the Japanese Fantail pussy willow, called Salix sachalinensis 'Sekka.' This type has flat, twisted, curling branches with multiple rows of soft fluffy buds, and is often found at spring flower shows. They are wonderful for flower arrangements, but in your yard the shrubby tree will get you wonderful comments. The foliage will grow 4 to 6 inches long and the plant has more of a weeping growing habit to 15 feet tall and wide. If you have the room on your property, this is a plant you can grow, cut, and sell the branches to your local garden center in the spring time. Most businesses would jump to buy these branches from you. I would also check with them about growing plants for them to sell at their nursery, this plant is that unique! 




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.





The combination of graham-cracker crust with fresh lemon juice and a toping of fresh whip cream will have you thinking of the South and its warm humid days. Put the snow shovel away and let's cook.

Ingredients pie crust:

1 cups of Graham -crackers crumbs

2 tablespoons of firmly packed brown sugar

6tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients pie filling:

 5 egg yolks, jumbo eggs are best

2 cups of sweetened condensed milk from 2 (14 ounce cans)

cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice, not bottled

1 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip cream your favorite from can or scratch

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and let's make the pie crust. Use a roller and crush up the graham crackers until evenly fine in texture. In a medium size bowl combine the graham crackers crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter. Stir well until well blended. Press the mixture evenly and firm onto the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate, shaping it into a crust with your fingers and press the crumbs down. Now take a second 9 inch pie plate and place on the crust you're making to shape the crust evenly and to firm it in place, remove second pie plate and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pie plate with crust and allow it to sit at room temperature on a wire rack, but do not turn off the oven.

Now let's make the pie filling in a large bowl. Beat the egg yolks and condensed milk with a wick, blending it until smooth. Now add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla to the mixture and wick until well blended together and smooth.

Pour the filling into the prepared graham-cracker crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the center of the filling is set. The pie is done when only a little of the filling sticks to your fingertip when you lightly touch the center of the pie. You can also gently shake the pie from side to side and if it stays firm it is ready. Place the pie on a wire rack to cool at room temperature. Cover the pie with poly wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 to 5 hours or better still over night until very cold. Covering the pie in the refrigerator will keep out odors from the refrigerator and make the pie taste much better when you serve it. Cut to desired size and add whipped cream before serving. If you have some lemon zest left sprinkle a bit on the whipped cream for a great presentation. Enjoy!



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