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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter


Purple Leaf Plum 

As I look out my window this time of the year my eyes search for a small tree planted near my driveway called the Purple Leaf Flowering Plum. It is unique because the trunk and the branches of this tree are black and really stand out among other trees in the yard. Last week, the flower buds started to swell and in just the last couple of days, the flowers opened, covering the black branches with deep pink blossoms. The flowers are 1 z' inch in diameter, with single petals that are fragrant. These flowers will last for three weeks or more depending on the rain and wind, as they are delicate like the flowering cherry trees. About a week or two after the flowers open, the new growth will begin to develop--and this is when it gets exciting for me. The new growth is purple-branches, foliage, and all. The new purple growth, paired with the pink flowers on the black branches, really stands out on a green lawn.

The Purple Leaf Plum will grow 15 to 20 feet tall and wide when matured. You can expect 12 to 15 inches of new growth each year, so it is a fast-growing small tree. The leaves are oval shaped, with a point on the tip and a smooth edge. These leaves will grow 2 to 3 inches long and about 1 inch wide. As they emerge and develop, the foliage will be bronze-purple and will mature to deep reddish purple. It will stay this wonderful color all summer long and really stand out in your yard. The colored foliage on this tree is more beautiful than the flowers because it will last right up to the frost in the fall. The tree is thick with leaves and some years if we get a lot of hot sunshine, the inner foliage will fade to deep green, but the outside leaves stay purple. The Flowering Plum does not have fruit and is a clean tree for your yard. It is very hardy and will tolerate a wide open growing area with wind.

The Purple Leaf Plum will look great when planted alone in a garden with underplantings of perennials or annuals. Plant the Purple Leaf Plum in a row along your driveway or along your property line. When the trees are used as a barrier, they are striking to look at and will give your property great lines. I like them because the tree has no disease problems with the foliage, unlike flowering crabapples. Fertilize them in the spring when in bloom to help produce more foliage and flower buds for next year. I use Plant Tone and the new Plant Thrive with Mycorrhizae bacteria fertilizer to help them get established when young. The flowering Plum loves a rich soil, so add plenty of compost or peat moss when planting. The roots are shallow and a layer of bark mulch or compost on the planting bed really helps the tree at all seasons. When you first buy the tree, it will be upright growing because of how it was grown in the nursery. Once you plant it in your yard, it will s pread out and get wide in just a few years. The tree will grow best in a well-drained soil with no standing water. During hot dry summers, when rain is hard to come by, watering is necessary to keep the leaves shiny or they will get a dull finish to them.

Look for the Newport Flowering Plum, as it is more rounded in shape and has white to pink flowers. It will grow 15 to 20 feet wide and tall and is also hardier in a cold climate. The Thundercloud Flowering Plum is taller, growing upright to 20 feet plus, with deeper pink flowers. Keep trees away from the side of the road because, like most other flowering small trees, they do not like road salt . The thick foliage will also make a great place for birds to nest. Remember that hummingbirds love red and if you want to attract and feed them, this is a great tree to place a feeder on a pole. Enjoy!


Cherry Blossom (original song)
Cherry Blossom (original song)


Spring Flowering Dogwood



The king of the spring-flowering trees is the dogwood; from Florida north to Massachusetts, this is the most loved of all spring-flowering trees. This tree reminds me of the South with all of its beauty, the feathery strands of Spanish moss growing between its flowers on its branches. What would the Masters Golf Tournament be without all of these beautiful white and pink flowering dogwood trees creating a canopy of color over all those beautiful azaleas? If you have a garden with a bit of shade, the spring-flowering dogwood is the tree for you. When spring arrives, you too can enjoy the wonderful flowers of your dogwood as they brighten your garden as the trees of the Masters Golf Tournament do.

Have you ever heard of the legend of the dogwood? The dogwood of the past was a tree, larger than the mighty oak of today, that grew in the Middle East. It was valued for its strong wood, thick trunk and fine lumber but it did not flower then. The Romans chose this tree for the lumber to make the cross for the crucifixion of Christ. The dogwood was so distressed to be used for this purpose that it felt ashamed, and when Christ was nailed to the cross he could sense this. Jesus told the tree that "Because of your regret and pity for my suffering you will never grow large enough to be used for this purpose again. You shall grow slender, bent, and twisted and you shall blossom like no other tree with flowers to remind everyone this entire event. Your flowers will form a cross with two long and two short petals. The center of the outer edge of each petal will have a marking of a nail, stained like blood. In the center of the flower will be the crown of thorns worn on my head for all to see and remember this day." Take a minute today and look at the flowers on the tree, and you will better understand the legend of the dogwood tree.

The spring flowering dogwood will grow 20 to 25 feet tall and just as wide. The branches are smooth and dull gray; as the tree matures, they will become rough and almost scaly. The branches develop low on the tree and often grow very horizontal with a flat or rounded top. The growing habit is unique and distinctive, making the plant also very noticeable during the winter months because of its growing habit and appearance. If you're looking for something unusual for your garden, look at the weeping dogwood often found at larger nurseries. The branches seem to grow in layers, are very strong, and look like open arms inviting you to look at the flowers. The leaves grow 3 to 6 inches long, are oval with a point on the tip and the margins are a bit wavy. The leaves are deep green during the year but in the fall turn bright crimson red, lasting many weeks before falling from the tree. Today you can also find some varieties of dogwood with variegated foliage growing in milder climates.

The flowers form in April and last well into May and depending on the variety can be pure dusty white, soft pink and reddish-pink. The flowers have four petals that will grow 3 to 4 inches in diameter with a cluster of yellow polling sacks arranged in a circle in its center. As the flowers begin to fade, streaks of pink color will form in the wavy lines in the center of the petals just before they begin to fall. In warmer climates, you can also find double-flowering varieties with many flower petals.

If the bees visit your trees and do their job properly, the flower will be pollinated and a fruit will form where the flower once set on the branch of the tree. The fruits are bright red when ripe in September and will last on the tree until the birds eat them during the winter months. Each fruit will grow about an inch long and resembles a jelly bean; they sometimes grow in clusters on the tree. The fruits are noticeable on the tree during the winter until the birds eat them.

If you want to grow the spring-flowering dogwood in your yard, choose a location with a bit of shade if possible, but it will also grow in full sun. The tree does prefer a soil that is on the acidic side and one rich with organic matter but it must be well drained and there should never be any standing water around the plant. If planted in full sun, be sure to water the tree during the hot dry days of summer, as this is the time the tree is making flower buds for the following spring. When it's young, I would suggest that you make a large planting bed around the base of the plant 3 to 4 feet in diameter, add bark mulch 2 to 3 inches thick over the soil and plant flowers. If you do this, you will water and fertilize the flowers and the tree at the same time. This will help the tree to become established in your yard much faster and will also help it make flowers earlier in its life--and more of them. Trees grown in full sun will grow thicker and much fuller in appearance, causing them to lose some character, unlike those grown in partial shade.

When you plant your dogwood, always use compost and mycorrhizae microbes to help the roots form quickly. If the tree is over 6 feet tall, the tree should also be staked for the first year to prevent root damage during the winter by the winds. The white dogwood is stronger than the pink varieties of dogwood, so be sure to plant the pink varieties in a sheltered area away from the winds of winter. Growing up in Massachusetts we planted a white and a pink dogwood on my parents' front lawn and during a normal winter both trees had flowers in the spring. If we had a windy and cold winter the pink dogwood had many flower buds that dried out and never opened or the partially opened with only two of the four petals showing color. The spring-flowering dogwood buds have no covering on them, just the four petals folded over each other; that is why some years they dry out and fail to flower. If this happens to your trees, spray the buds in the fall with an antidessicant like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt Stop in October.

Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone or Dr. Earth Acid loving plant food. When you apply lime to your lawn, keep it away from the planting bed. This is a great tree for adding to your landscape if you do not have one already. Plant the spring-flowering dogwood as a specimen on the corner of your home, in the middle of your lawn or, better still, in groups at the end of your property for a show of spring color in a planting bed with perennials or spring-flowering bulbs. Dogwoods do not like road salt, so keep them away from the side of the road or your driveway if you use salt during the winter.

If you have tall-growing pines, oaks, and maples that had their branches cut back to let in some sunlight to your yard, scatter small dogwoods here and there under them for a natural woodland look to your property. This dogwood will grow well in the same area as rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel, and when they are planted together, your property will look like the golf course where the Masters tournament is played. Dogwoods look wonderful if you place upward-facing night lighting under them--the shadows will be wonderful in the summertime as well as during the winter. Enjoy!


              Fragrant Lilacs in all Colors


The number one selling late spring, early summer flowering shrub is the lilac. As you drive around town, look at the homes you pass by and you will be amazed how many of them have lilac in their yards. These plants are magnificent; they are easy to grow and the flowers they make will fill the air in your yard with a delightful fragrance. What a wonderful plant to add to any garden that has lots of sunshine. Sunshine is the main demand for this plant and the more it receives the more flowers it will make. They will grow in a partial shade but flowers will be far and few apart. Do not fool yourself; if your yard does not have sun most of the day, plant a different shrub.

Lilacs are deciduous and will lose their foliage during the winter months. The leaves grow 2 to 5 inches long, oval in shape and dark green to blue green in color depending on variety you select. The foliage is not known for fall color and is rather dull. If we have a hot and humid summer, the plant can develop Powdery Mildew on the foliage. This problem is controlled easily with Serenade organic fungicide if you begin treating the plant in early July, knowing you had a problem in past years. Powdery Mildew does not kill the plant but if it happens every year, the plant will develop fewer flowers each year. Irrigation systems that wet the foliage regularly can also cause the same problem, so adjust the sprinkler heads. A fertilizer that contains mycorrhizae bacteria will help to prevent the problem as it doubles the root system size in just a few weeks and reduces stress to the plant. Granular products like Bio-Tone or Dr Earth Shrub fertilizer must be worked into the soil, to contact the roots to do the job. The new liquid Plant Thrive Mycorrhizae, can just be watered into the soil.

Lilacs are multi-stem shrubs that, depending on the variety, will grow from 6 to 15 feet tall and wide. They grow in a mounding habit with stiff upright growing branches. As the plant ages, the lower part of the plant will have exposed stems with little foliage. When young and actively growing, many suckering shoots will develop at the base of the plant. I have had great luck keeping the plant full by removing half to three quarters of these shoots. The shoots that remain will in time flower as the older branches slow down, producing fewer flowers. You can also dig some of those shoots in April or May and transplant them to a new garden to start new plants. The flowers develop on the tips of the branches growing 3 to 7 inches tall and pyramidal shaped. You can cut the flowers on short 12 to 18 inch stems and place them in a vase of water for the home; the fragrance is just wonderful. Pick early in the morning before the sun gets too hot and remove some of the leaves to prevent wilting. If stems are thicker than a pencil, split them in two at the base of the stem -- this cut will help the flowers get water easier and faster. Keep them out of the sun and if it is hot in the house add Ice cubes daily to cool the flower down.

Lilacs love a sweet soil and should not be planted in gardens that have rhododendrons or azaleas growing in them, as those prefer an acidic type soil. If you apply limestone, wood ash or the new Jonathan Green Mag-I-Cal lime substitute in the spring and fall, the flowers soon cover the plant. Lilacs will also grow better if you can keep the grass from growing under the branches right up to the trunk of the plant. Cut out all the grass under the plant, making a small mulch bed. I have found that if you plant flowers under the lilac, you tend to water the plant more, as well as fertilize the flowers and this will help the lilac plant to make flowers buds during the summer for next spring flowers. Feed plants every spring with a granular fertilizer such as Plant-Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub fertilizer. A well-fed plant has fewer problems with disease during the summer also.

If you should notice a single branch die in the clump during the summer, check the base of the plant for small holes in the trunk -- it could be a lilac bores. Usually this is not a major problem, but the branch should be removed and the plant treated with Bayer Tree and Shrub systemic insecticide. Prune as the plant comes into bloom in the spring. Any non-blooming stems in the lilac should be cut back to 4 feet tall and fertilized in the spring. During the summer, the stem will produce foliage and in just 2 to 3 years, it will be flowering. Remove as much as 1/3 of the non-flowering stems each year to control the height and size of the plant.

Today lilacs come in many colors from white to pink, lavender, purple, red and even several varieties that are bi-colored. Common lilacs seem to be the most fragrant but the newer French Hybrids have more colors to choose from, bloom later in the season and have different leaf texture. If you have a small yard, look into the dwarf types that will grow up to six feet tall or when pruned, can be kept at 4 feet. If you are looking for summer color for your yard, look at the Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata). This plant is a small growing tree 20 to 25 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide. The tree lilac flowers during June and early July with white flower clusters. The flowers grow 6 to 12 inches tall and are not as showy as the bush type of lilac, but are still beautiful. Summer flowering trees are rare and this tree is wonderful to look at. The bark looks like a cherry tree: smooth and spotted. The flowers are not as fragrant as the bush type lilac, but it has a scent similar to that of the privet hedge plant. Care for the tree type lilac the same way you do for the bush type. This plant is also very hardy and will grow when temperatures drop to minus 30 to 40 degrees.




                             Rhubarb fresh from the Garden


Nearly 5000 years ago, only rhubarb roots were used (as a laxative) in Ancient China. In the 18th century, people discovered that the stems made a good vegetable--especially when mixed with seasonal fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries when baking. The stems are tart-tasting and the smaller stems have the best flavor, so pick often while they are small for the best taste. Rhubarb is delicious when added to sweetened sauces, pastries and pies, but I still love eating the raw stems once they are peeled of the thick skin on them and dipped in white sugar. The one thing I want you to remember is that the leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, so do not be tempted to eat them!

Rhubarb is an easy crop to grow in your garden. Once established, it requires little to no care--and the plant has few problems with insects and diseases. Best of all, the plant can last in your garden for up to 20 years and be just as productive from the second year to the 20th year--if you keep it well fertilized and watered when the summer weather gets hot and dry.

This is the time of the year to plant rhubarb as divisions; they are available at your local garden center or nursery as potted plants or dormant buds.. If you have large, well-established plants, this is also the time to divide your plants to make new plants for the future. Individual plants look like large red mushrooms, almost egg-shaped, but shiny red. Some of the rhubarb buds will have broken open and foliage is beginning to form in a clump just above the ground. These buds, or foliage clumps, develop on a ring made by the plant from last fall. As the plant grows larger, the ring will grow larger and produce more buds that will form clumps of foliage with those tasty red stems.

Before you plant the divisions or starter plants, dig a hole 2 feet wide and 12 inches deep and remove all the soil and condition it before putting it back in the hole for planting. Use a 50 pound bag of composted cow manure, compost, or garden coir fibers to improve the soil texture and soil fertility. Remember, the plant will stay productive for up to 20 years, so the better you condition the soil, the better it will produce for you. If your soil is on the sandy side, apply a couple of tablespoons of Soil Moist Granules to help retain soil moisture during the heat of summer--and I also would like to see you mix in Dynamite time-release pellets when you prepare the soil.

Dynamite will feed your plant for 9 months, compared to other products that feed for just 3 to 4 months and the cost is the same. Dynamite is the name of this retail fertilizer used by most greenhouses that grow their own plants in pots or containers, the commercial name is called Nutracoat, and it only comes in 50 pound bags. I have used it for over 30 years with great results. This plant food will get your new plant established quickly in the garden. Blend 4 to 5 tablespoons at the time of planting and blend well in your soil as you prepare for planting. Each spring at the first sign of foliage beginning to form from the plant apply 4 to 5 tablespoons around the plant and work into the soil 3 to 5 inches deep and you're done feeding the plant for the year--great stuff.

If your soil is heavy and wet, be sure to blend in coarse sharp sand--50 pounds; use sand box sand---also sold at your favorite garden center--or half a bag of pine bark mulch to break apart the clay-like soil in the garden. If your garden has standing water in the early spring or stays wet well into April build a raised garden bed 6 to 8 inches higher than the rest of the garden and your rhubarb will thrive. I also like to cover the ground with a couple inches of the left-over pine bark mulch, garden straw, compost, or chopped up seaweed to control weeds and help retain soil moisture during the summer months. This will also give the plant additional protection during the winter months. The plant will grow and spread to be 3 feet wide and almost as tall as it becomes more mature so give it plenty of room in the garden. If the summer is hot and dry, water the plant regularly, just like the rest of your garden.

In the summer months, the rhubarb plant will produce a large flowering stem that will be covered with masses of creamy white flowers. This flowering stem will grow to be 4 to 5 feet tall, looks beautiful and will make seeds to produce additional plants for next year. I usually remove the flowering stem so the energy the flower needs to grow stays in the plant to keep it productive later on into the summer.

Harvesting the stems of rhubarb starts in the early spring and lasts into the early summer--about 8 weeks. Do not harvest any stems the first year, so the plant can become well established in the garden. The second year you can pick 6 to 10 stems from the plant, and the third year on, up to half of the stems--but not all at the same time. The best way to harvest a stem is to grab the stem at the base of the plant and twist it out of the socket vertically. Cut off the foliage and toss it in your compost pile; remember the foliage is toxic and poisonous. Do not eat it. Use the larger stems when you harvest them from the plant, as they will have more flavors.

The stems of rhubarb will last for over two weeks if washed to remove any soil on them and stored in a perforated plastic bag in your vegetable crisper. I love fresh-picked rhubarb stems if they are cooked fresh out of the garden--or you can cut them into pieces for freezing in freezer bags.

The best varieties are:

'Canada Red,' which has thick, dark red, sweet stalks.

'Valentine' rhubarb is a strong-growing plant for a northern climate Washington D.C. And north, with sweet red stalks.

'Victoria' rhubarb has green stalks with a rosy sheen at the base--not stringy, and very tasty.

'Early Victoria' rhubarb is a new hybrid that matures earlier in the season, with the same qualities as 'Victoria.'

'Macdonald' rhubarb has many smaller stems with rich red color and a great tart taste.

'Sutton' rhubarb has many smaller stems with medium red color and has a great tart taste.

'Champagne' rhubarb has all sizes of stems, with a more pale red coloration to the stems. Very tasty.

You will need two clumps of rhubarb for a family of 4 to 5 people if you like rhubarb cooked by itself or mixed for other berries during the summer months. My favorite is stewed chopped rhubarb that has been chilled in the refrigerator and then spread on toast for breakfast. Try it--you will love it in season. Enjoy!



"He who plants a garden works hand and hand with God"





            Fresh from the garden

              Rhubarb Cobbler



2 pounds of fresh picked rhubarb stems cleaned and diced in 1 inch pieces

2 cups of granulated white sugar

4 Tablespoons of butter

3Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice


cup of granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons of butter

1 egg

1 cup of all-purpose flower that is mixed with 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon, teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon ground nutmeg

cup of milk mixed with 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven at 375 degrees

Generously butter a 2 1/2 quart Pyrex glass baking casserole, or use Pam.


Filling: mix rhubarb, sugar, butter and lemon juice in a sauce pan, cook and stir about 7 minutes. Pour into prepared casserole.


Crust: in a bowl, beat sugar and butter, until creamy. Beat in eggs. Slowly beat in flour mixture and milk mixture to a cake batter. Now pour over the hot rhubarb mixture and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until center is done.


Serve warm and top with a scoop of Vanilla Ice cream.

Your Rhubarb is coming up quickly now, so pick when ready and enjoy.

Next week the best Rhubarb pie you ever had



                     Traveling with the Paul Parent Garden Club 

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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