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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter


Bleeding Heart 


Did you know that a bleeding heart is a wild flower that grows as a native plant under the deciduous tree canopy in the forest from New York to Georgia? The variety that grows wild is called Dicentra eximia or fringed bleeding heart, and is also known as dwarf bleeding heart. The larger-growing variety, known as the old-fashioned bleeding heart, came from China.

There are two distinct types of plants: the larger growing, taller growing and spring flowering, bleeding heart Dicentra spectablis and the dwarf types that bloom later in the season and throughout most of the summer. If you have a shade or partial shade garden, these plants should be in your garden. If they aren't, add them to your list to plant this spring. And yes the flower looks like a heart that has broken, with a tear falling from it.

The old-fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectablis) is one of the earliest flowering perennials in our gardens to bloom. It will begin in mid-spring/late April and last well into June. When your tulips, daffodils and crocus are in all their glory and your forsythia, dogwoods, and wisteria are the show makers in your yard, the bleeding heart is the king of the perennial garden.

The foliage is almost fern-like and deep green in color (though there is a cultivar with almost golden foliage). This foliage develops early--a soft fluffy mound of greens that quickly grows 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. Once the foliage is formed, look for tall growing arching branches that will grow another foot tall with no leaves on them; these will develop all over the plant. Then the flowers begin to form in the shape of deep pink hearts that develop quickly on the tip of the stems. As the flower matures and grows in size, they seem to break open at the base of the heart and a tiny white tear-like flower emerges. The flowers develop in rows along the tip of the stem and may number a dozen or more in each row, making the stem arch even more with the weight of the flowers. Each flower will grow to an inch in diameter and last several weeks on the plant, especially if the weather is cool.

The bleeding heart is a perennial plant that needs little to no care once established in your garden, so leave it alone and do not move it around once it has been planted. If you divide the plant, it will take several years to recoup from the division--especially the mother plant. You're better off to buy new plants if you want more plants for your garden. When the heat arrives in July, the plant will begin to turn yellow and go dormant for the summer unless you have a cool moist summer. Just cut it back to the ground and wait for next year as the plant did give you a beautiful flowering plant from April to July.

Plant the bleeding heart in a soil rich in organic matter--the more organic matter the soil contains, the larger the plant will grow and the more flowers it will develop. Compost and animal manure are the best soil conditioners but peat moss and well-rotted bark work well also. I always use "Soil Moist" granules when planting to help hold moisture around the roots, especially if the soil is on the sandy side. Keep the soil moist when plants are in bloom and place a 2 inch thick layer of compost or bark mulch around the plant to control weeds during the growing season and to hold moisture around the plant when it gets hot out during the summer.

Fertilize with Plant Tone fertilizer in the early spring when you see the plant emerge from the ground; no additional feeding will be needed during the rest of the year. You can lime the garden if you begin to notice moss growing in the garden or in the grass around the garden to prevent the soil from getting too acidic. These plants are very hardy and will tolerate -10 to -20 degrees below zero during the winter and even thrive in a climate as far south as northern Florida, where winters are cool.

Most of us know this plant with the deep pink flower with the white tear, but did you know that a red or white heart is now available with the white tear. The all-white or red and white flowering types do not grow as large but will stand out in your garden. Plant them with other shade loving plants like hosta, astilbe, primrose, lily of the valley, helleborus, and ferns.

The dwarf- type fringed bleeding hearts, Dicentra eximia, grow differently but do develop a dense mound of deeply cut fernlike foliage much like the taller growing type. The foliage is gray-green, more feathery looking and stays closer to the ground. This variety is a summer bloomer and it will flower most of the summer despite the heat as long as you can provide enough moisture to keep it happy. It is heat -resistant and will take a bit of morning sun but you will have to water more. I add "Soil Moist" when planting and that will help a lot in the long run to keep moisture around the roots when you forget to do so.

The flower stems are like the spring-flowering types, with no leaves on them; they contain fewer flowers per stem, but the plant produces many more stems during the season. The plant will grow 10 to 18 inches tall and spread the same width. If your soil is rich with organic matter and you provide moisture during the hot days of the summer, your plant can grow up to two feet tall and just as wide. If your soil dries out with the hot weather, your plant can turn yellow and go dormant earlier than normal. The plant will not die but will stop growing for that year.

The dwarf varieties will vary on height and spread, some staying small--under a foot tall--so be sure you read the plant label when you purchase the plant and check with the salesperson for more information. Also like the spring-flowering types you can select white, pink, red and coral pink flowers varieties. The flowers on the smaller growing varieties are not as dramatic looking, with big heart-shaped flowers of spring flowering types, but look very nice in your garden during the summer.

Both types of plant will produce a flower stem that can be cut and used with other flowers in a vase of water on your table. The flowers will last well over a week as a cut flower. Insects and disease problems are few and the plant is not eaten by rabbits and deer--a real plus if these animals come to your yard.

Both plants will attract butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds to your garden. Use bleeding hearts in perennial borders, mixed planting flower beds, plant them as wild flowers under tall growing trees to create color in a wooded lot, in shrubbery beds as a foundation planting around them for additional color--and they look wonderful when planted along shaded streams on your property with other wild flowers.

The bleeding heart plant will be in bloom for Mother's Day and will make a great present for Mom!


God Made a Farmer's Wife
God Made a Farmer's Wife

Time to plant the Broccoli



Broccoli is a vegetable that either you love...or you don't. It's a vegetable that can be eaten fresh out of the garden, raw in salads, is great for dipping or cooked a hundred different ways to fit your taste buds. It's also one of the few vegetables that you actually eat the flower buds of the plant before they mature to flowers. This unique vegetable will do best when planted early in the spring when the weather is still cool to cold, so don't wait to plant them when the weather is ready in mid-May for your tomatoes--plant them now. At this time of the year, it's too late to start broccoli plants from seed, so plant seedlings available at your local nursery or garden center. But you should buy a package of seeds for a fall and early winter crop--and I will tell you about that fall crop after we talk about the summer crop.

Broccoli is a vegetable that prefers a soil a bit on the acid side to neutral; if you apply wood ash or limestone to the garden every other year the plants will do quite well. They are heavy feeders and will quickly deplete your garden soil of Nitrogen in just one season unless you fertilize them monthly with a good organic vegetable garden fertilizer. Broccoli should never be planted in the same location of your garden every year. Rotation of the location in the garden will keep this wonderful vegetable productive and will give the soil a chance to rest and rebuild the soil fertility. Adding compost to the garden soil--leaves, animal manure or seaweed--in the fall of the year will help to rebuild the quality of the soil by spring for other types of vegetable plants.

If you have tried to grow broccoli in the past--or other cold weather crops such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage or collards and have had problems with small or stunted growth, hollow stems or stems that crack or split open, you have a problem that is easily solved with an application of Borax detergent powder. Soils that are on the acidic side or are low in organic matter, such as compost or animal manure are usually deficient in Boron. In the spring before planting add compost and use Jonathan Green Magic-Cal to sweeten the soil.

If the fertilizer you are using does not list Boron on the package, just add Borax detergent to your garden at the rate of 2 pounds per 1000 sq. ft. of garden and till to a depth of 6 inches deep into the soil. Boron deficiency is also responsible for corn that has discolored foliage, stunted growth and is light in color; also look for poor corn kernel development on the cob of the plant. Vegetable garden fertilizers like Vegetable-Tone or Dr. Earth Vegetable fertilizer with Pro-Biotic are complete fertilizers and will solve your problem with a Boron shortage in your garden.

Broccoli loves a well-drained soil with lots of organic matter like compost, animal manure, or seaweed added to the garden every year. This helps to hold moisture around the plant roots during periods of high heat during the summer. If your soil is heavy and on the clay side, conditioning is necessary to help root development and prevent root rot problems if the season is a wet one. Adding Garden Gypsum will also help to break up the clay in the soil and improve drainage. If your soil is on the sandy side also use Soil Moist granules at the time of planting to help hold moisture around the roots, all you will need is a good pinch per plant.

Select a full sun location in the garden for the best yield but the plant will tolerate a bit of shade. Space your plants 18 to 24 inches apart, with 2 feet between rows. If you're planting in a block, try to stagger the rows so plants have more room to grow. Once the plants are established in the garden and growing well, water them weekly to help the plant produce side shoots once you have picked the large terminal head of broccoli. A well-fed and watered plant will produce 1 to 2 inch mini heads all summer long. Pick those mini heads often and if some should develop yellow flowers, cut and remove them from the plant--or the plant will go to seed and production will stop, especially when it gets hot. Broccoli will keep over a week in a food storage bag in your refrigerator, so pick often until you have enough for a meal and then cook or just eat them raw in your summer salad. Pick your broccoli when the flower buds are small and tight for the best flavor.

Broccoli is a great source of sulforaphane, (a compound that can help prevent some types of cancer) and antioxidants that help protect the body from other disease. It is also low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Broccoli is full of vitamins like calcium, iron, potassium and a good source of protein.

Some problems you might encounter are: cabbage lopper--a small green caterpillar insect that is easily controlled with the new natural insecticide called Spinosad that is safe for all pollinators in your garden. A soil insect that I had problems with in the past called the root maggot is easily controlled with a new insecticide for the vegetable garden soil is called "Garden Eight Granules for the Vegetable Garden"; just apply in the hole around the roots at the time of planting and the problem is eliminated. This same product will also control cutworms when you sprinkle it around the plant after planting and it is safe and very effective, as cutworms love the cold crops vegetables when planted at this time of the year. Both of these vegetable garden insecticides are available from Bonide lawn and Garden at your favorite garden center or nursery. Once you apply the product, water the garden well to make them effective and protect your garden plants. If you have wire worms in your potatoes, radishes, or turnips this product will control these pests when added to the soil around the seed when planting.

If you want to grow a fall crop of broccoli, purchase your seeds now, as they will not be available later--and save them until mid-July. Start your seeds in a flat of seed-starter soil at mid-month; the seeds will germinate in about a week. Set out seedlings when the plants develop 3 sets of leaves--and plant them 12 inches apart in the garden, as this fall season crop will only allow you to harvest one large head per plant due to the length of the season. If the fall weather is nice, you may be able to harvest some additional side shoots but plan for nice large and tasty heads by late September or early October.

Some wonderful varieties to look for are 'Packman F1', 'Premium Crop F1', 'Saga F1' or 'Mariner F1', as these varieties will produce an abundance of side shoots all summer long and a large fully formed terminal head in the spring and fall season.

Keep plants away from plantings of pole or snap beans and strawberries, as they do not get along very well. Good companion plants are bush beans, lettuce, cucumbers, beets, and carrots. not forget to rotate your crops with another vegetable other than the cold weather crops and the plants in the cabbage family the following year; give the soil a chance to rest, and rebuild itself naturally. Enjoy!



Die when I may, I want it said by those who new me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow. 

Abraham Lincoln



Slow Cooker Lemon Pepper Chicken


1 (2 to 3 pound) whole chicken, giblets removed


1/4 cup butter, softened


1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 (1-inch thick) slice of lemon                     

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed, or more to taste


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


2 teaspoons seasoned salt


1 teaspoon dried thyme


cracked black pepper to taste (optional)


six carrots


six potatoes



  1. Rinse chicken, pat dry with paper towels, and use your fingers to loosen the skin over the breast and thighs.
  2. Stir butter and lemon pepper in a small bowl and insert seasoned butter beneath the loosened skin using a teaspoon. Push butter from spoon using the skin. Place lemon slice and garlic cloves into the chicken cavity.
  3. Place chicken into a slow cooker. Rub skin with olive oil and sprinkle seasoned salt, thyme, and cracked black pepper over the bird. Add carrots and potatoes around the chicken.
  4. Cook on High for 3 hours; reduce heat to Low and cook until chicken is very tender and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, not touching bone, reads at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C), 2 to 3 more hours. If desired, cook bird on Low setting 6 to 8 hours.



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.


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