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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter



Clematis the queen of the summer vines




In 1968, I planted my first of many Clematis vines at a nursery in Scituate, Massachusetts, called Kennedy's Country Gardens. We received 200 two-year-old seedlings and my job that day was to pot these new plants in 2 gallon size pots. I had just finished blending rich top soil, peat moss, and cow manure together making a wonderful potting mixture for the new plants to grow in. My teacher at the nursery was a wonderful woman from England named Janet Burnett; she taught me how to plant and grow this plant. Janet told me many stories about how well this plant thrives in England and showed me many pictures of her gardens. One picture had clematis growing in the middle of a garden --what she called her clematis tree. I told her that I thought that clematis was a vine and could not believe that it grew into a tree.

What Janet had done was plant several clematis plants of different colors and flowering times at the base of an old apple tree that had died several years earlier and used the tree as a trellis for the plants to grow on. I can still see that clematis tree today in my mind, just beautiful. So if you have a small dead tree about 15 feet tall, don't cut it down--use it to grow clematis on. Janet told me that in England where she lived, the soil had layers of lime running through it and that was why her plants grew so well.

I had potted about 25 seedlings before Janet arrived to show me how to do it properly and she said to me how much lime did you put into each container you planted? I told her none but I had done an extra good job preparing the potting mixture. Janet had me dump all the plants out and start over because each pot had to have a cup of lime added to the potting soil mixture because clematis "LOVED" a sweet soil and only "LIME" made the soil sweet. After that experience, I always asked questions before starting the job! Janet was a wonderful teacher, and I will share with you what she taught me about clematis .

Clematis is the showiest perennial vine you can plant in your garden. They are among the easiest vines to grow in the garden, and their wide range of colors and flower size will please everyone. With over 1000 varieties to choose from and more new hybrids coming out each year, the clematis is quickly becoming the most popular vine for today's gardens. Clematis originated in the Orient about 500 years ago and has now spread all over the world because of hybridization to fit particular climates.

Janet showed me that the clematis plant does not produce tendrils nor do its stems twist around other plants. The leaf stalk, called the "petiole," will twist around any type of support from wire, string, wood, or vinyl lattice to even small tree branches for support. All you have to do is to provide something for the plant to grow on and it does the rest all by itself. Clematis can be trained to climb fences, archways, or trellis and can even scale the wall on the side of your house as long as you provide them with some type of support to climb on. You can also plant one on top of a retaining wall and watch it climb over it and cascade down to display its beautiful foliage and flowers or even let it run on the ground as a wonderful ground cover where you have outcroppings of ledge.

Clematis prefers to grow vertically, making this plant perfect for even the smallest flower garden or on your light pole at the end of your walk way. They do not take much room in your garden, so place a pole or trellis here and there for a bit of vertical height in your garden. Enjoy these pillars of clematis flowers poking out of your once horizontal growing garden as the clematis vine reaches for the sky. This is a great vine for a more natural looking garden; train it to grow where you want it to grow but let this plant do what it wants and don't prune it heavily. Grow the clematis vine like a rambling rose, let it surprise you with all its flowers and enjoy how unpredictably it will grow in your garden.

Plant clematis in a garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunshine; some varieties like clematis paniculata 'Sweet Autumn' will adapt easily to partial shade garden, so check at the nursery about special light requirements. This garden should also have good air circulation around it so the foliage can dry off quickly after long periods of rain fall. Avoid overhead watering in the evening hours to keep foliage dry and prevent disease problems. Water early in the day so the sun can dry foliage quickly and keep disease problems away. Water clematis plants regularly, especially during the summer months if the weather gets hot and dry. The roots of the clematis are strong and grow deep so be sure to water s thoroughly, especially when the plant is in bloom or the flowering period will be shorter.

Clematis vines will grow best in a rich soil that is well drained and never has standing water. Always condition the soil before planting with compost, animal manure, or peat moss. To help hold water around the roots of the plant in the summer months always add Soil Moist granules when planting. Clematis is a heavy feeder and will do much better when planted if you also add an organic fertilizer like Bio-Tone with Mycorrhizae or Dr Earth with Pro-biotic to encourage quick root development.

Your soil pH is very important, and one of the determining factors of a healthy plant. The sweeter the soil is, the better the plant will grow for you, so be sure to add Limestone, Magic-Cal or lots of wood ash to the soil before planting. Also yearly application of these products will keep your soil sweet if you live in areas where pines and oak trees are native. I use 2 handfuls of wood ash every spring around my plants and they just love it. Fertilize spring and fall with Plant-Tone or Dr. Earth shrub fertilizer with Pro-biotic to keep plant actively growing.

Root and stem protection is also a determining factor for the clematis vine and it is very important to grow a ground cover or perennials around the plant to shade the soil to keep it cool during the summer months. Also place an evergreen plant--or stand up a brick or cobble stone on end--in front of the vine, facing south, to shade the bottom 6 to 8 inches of the vine during the winter months. This shading of the stem keeps it cool during the summer months and stabilizes freezing and thawing during the winter months.

If you suddenly get foliage that turns brown or black on the plant, remove it quickly and the plant will form new growth from the base of the plant to replace it. Pour a bit of bleach on pruner blades before and between cuts to prevent moving disease problems from branch to branch; bleach will sterilize the pruners. When weeding or applying fertilizer to the plant, always use your hand and never use cultivating tools, as you can damage the roots of the plant. Bark mulch around the plant is encouraged at a depth of 2 inches to keep out weeds and help cool the soil.

Pruning is always a question with the clematis vine, when and how? If you see dead or damaged growth on the plant, remove it at any time you find it. As the clematis vine begins to age you will notice that fewer flowers form on the vine, usually after 4 to 5 years. The stems are getting tired, so these older stems should be cut back to within 18 inches of the ground in the early spring and before the new growth starts on the plant, during March early April. This will encourage new stems to develop from the roots of the plant in late April and these stems will flower the same year on the plant.

If your plant looks like a tangled mess of live and dead stems wrapped around your light pole or trellis, it is time for a major pruning of the plant. Try and save as much of the new and fleshy looking growth as possible but remove the older looking vines of the plant in the early spring.

If you have never grown a clematis vines before, this is the year for you to plant one in your garden. The vine has wonderful flowers that will last for many weeks, the flowers come in many colors, and the flower size varies from less than one inch in diameter to over 6 inches wide. Try one this summer, and next year, once the plant is established in your garden, you will thank me over and over again. Enjoy!




"My Dad" - Paul Petersen
                                       Happy Father's Day to All Dad's



If you are looking for a classic perennial flower to give your garden lots of wonderful color, a little height, and long lasting flowers during the summer, then I have the perfect plant for you --the delphinium. The delphinium is a must, if you're planning a country or cottage style perennial garden for your yard this year. If you want cut flowers from your garden, than this plant is the king of all tall-growing perennials and will outlast most cut flowers in your home. If I was to choose one word to describe the delphinium, it would be "glamorous."

Delphiniums will grow best where the summer months are moist; cool to warm temperatures but not hot like the southern part of the country, and where the winters are cold so the plant can go dormant and rest. The plants will grow best when planted in a garden with full sun to a bit of light shade at the end of the day. This plant needs room to grow so when you plant it in your garden, give it two to three feet of growing area in your garden.

Let's start with the soil, because the better the soil is, the larger and more productive the plant will be. Delphiniums prefer a rich, moist, and well-drained soil and will not tolerate heavy clay type soils. If your garden soil is just "soil," you will have to condition it before planting with compost, animal manure, or peat moss or the plant will not thrive! If your soil is on the sandy side or has clay in it, you can repair it to grow this wonderful perennial and your efforts will pay off. Lots of organic matter and garden gypsum like Soil Logic's Soil Conditioner will make any soil ready to grow this plant. A sweet soil will make for a better plant, so add lime or wood ash every spring or fall to keep the soil from getting too acidic.

Delphiniums can be planted in your garden from spring to fall if container grown. They can be transplanted from your garden easily or established plants can be divided in the spring of the year while the plants are still small and the weather is cool. I have not had good luck moving plants in the fall season here in Northern New England because the plants do not have enough time to get established in the garden before the cold weather arrives . A two-inch layer of compost or bark mulch on the garden around the plant helps with hot dry summer's weather to keep the roots cool and moist. This layer of organic matter also helps to keep out weeds and protects the roots during winters that are real cold and when little snow cover is there to protect the plant.

Delphiniums are heavy feeders, so be sure to add compost and animal manure when you plant, and apply around the plant each spring to promote strong growth. I also suggest that you apply Soil Moist granules in the hole when planting, to help hold extra moisture during hot summers. To speed up root development, use a fertilizer that has mycorrhizae when planting, such as Bio-Tone or Dr. Earth starter fertilizer with Pro-Biotic. Once the plant is established, use either of these products in the spring and again in early September to keep plants well fed and strong. If you planted new seedlings or transplants, use the new "Plant Thrive" liquid fertilizer every month to develop strong roots.

The reason I have been promoting strong roots is because of the size of the plant and its flowers. The foliage part of the plant will grow 2 to 3 feet wide and just as tall. The flowers will grow on long stems on top of the foliage that will reach 5 to 7 feet tall, so you will need strong roots to support the plant. The plant cannot always hold the large flower spikes by itself, so be prepared to stake the flower stems as they develop. If your garden is near a fence or side of the house it will help protect the plant from strong winds but if in the middle of your garden in an open area you will have to stake some of the taller flower stems or cut them to put into a tall vase for the kitchen table. Did you know that if you cut off the faded flowers or pick flowers from the plant just above the foliage it will re-bloom for you? What will happen is new foliage growth will develop at the base of the plant and in just a few weeks' new flowers will form as long as you remove the old stem right to the ground as the new foliage forms.

The foliage of the delphinium is deep green, resembles a little bit the maple tree leaf, and grows 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The leaves grow up the stem until the flowers begin to form, and each stem made by the plant will make flowers. The flower stem is a tall growing, like a spike or spire covered with individual 1 to 1.5 inch rounded blossoms that are two-toned. Each flower also has a spur in the back of the bloom for added character, and this flower develops off the main central stem from a 2 inch stem.

The plant forms all the buds on these tall stems all at once but opens them from the bottom first and slowly moves to the top. The flower stem resembles a rocket with a 4 to 6 inch base of open flowers, while the tip of the budded stem is almost pointed and narrower before the flowers open up. The flowers will last on the plant for 3 to 4 weeks, and longer if the summer is cool. The flower colors range from shades of blue, lavender, magenta, purple, pink, and white. The flower is unique because each flower has a flower in a flower--and the inner flower is usually a contrasting color; this is called a "bee." This flower is filled with nectar, and butterflies and humming birds love it and will be attracted to your garden.

Delphiniums look wonderful as individual specimen plants in your perennial garden or in mass plantings. Just remember that they grow tall, so plant them in the back of your garden or flower bed. To help hold large plant together I use peony hoops to support the plant and its flowers. If you check with your local garden center or nursery, they can help you select from the many new hybrids plant varieties that will grow shorter in height. The Pacific hybrids will grow 4 to 5 feet tall, have huge double and semi-double flowers on them, and come in many colors. Century hybrids grow just as tall--4 to 5 feet--but the flowers are smaller and more delicate looking. There are some smaller varieties growing to 3 feet. Also look for the Blackmore and Langdon hybrids with extremely large flowers and mixed colors.

To avoid disease problems when growing the delphinium, give the plant plenty of room to grow and prevent overcrowding in the garden. Good air circulation around the plant will prevent possible disease problems and NEVER water the plant from above the foliage. If you had disease problems with this plant in the past, do not plant new ones in the same area, as the fungus problem can stay active for up to 3 to 5 years in your garden. If disease problems develop on the plant, use Serenade organic fungicide to control the problem.

If you have leaf miners or borers in the stems, use Bayer Tree and Shrub insecticide to cure the problem and if caterpillars find the plant, use Spinosad, an organic insecticide, to control them. This is a wonderful plant and every garden should have this plant in it for spectacular summer color. Enjoy!!!





Evening Primrose

One of my favorite perennials for a sunny flower garden is the evening primrose--and it's not even a member of the Primrose family, it's just the plant's name. I will always remember the first time I saw this plant because it started my love for gardening.

I was on my way home from the corner store with a loaf of bread for my mother when I noticed one of my neighbors working in her garden doing a bit of weeding. I went into her yard to say hello, when I noticed several large clumps of bright yellow flowers in her garden. I asked her the name of those flowers, told her how beautiful they were and remembered saying that my mom would like some for her garden, too.

We talked a bit about her garden, until I remembered that my mother was waiting for the loaf of bread, so I said goodbye and headed home. As we finished supper that night, there was a knock on the screen door and there was my neighbor with a container filled with evening primrose plants she had thinned out of the garden for my mother. She said to my mother, "Paul thought you would like some of my evening primroses for your garden, so I dug a few plants for you." My mother had a big smile on her face, and soon the three of us were in the garden planting those evening primrose plants I had admired in the neighbor's garden.

Let me tell you about this plant, and why you should have it in your garden. Evening primroses are easy to grow and love the sun, but will also grow with a bit of light shade. The plants love a well-drained soil--even a soil on the sandy side will do. I will tell you that once they are established in your garden they will tolerate dry soil and are quite drought-tolerant. I have some plants in a garden bed where the soil is not very good and often gets snow dumped there with road salt and they do just fine--real tough plants. They will not tolerate wet spots at all, though; every time I planted them along the side of the house every plant near a gutter downspout quickly died.

Evening primroses, contrary to their name, flower during the day time, not at night, but I have been told that there are some varieties that do flower at night. These plants open up their buds at sunrise and close at sunset, each flower lasting only one day, but the plant will produce flowers for 6 to 8 weeks in a well-kept garden. The flower buds are 1 to 1.5 inches long, resemble a closed umbrella in shape--long, and narrow--and are a soft red. When the flower buds open, you're in for a real treat because the flower petals are bright yellow, look almost like silky sateen, with a bit of sheen to them and in the shape of the poppy flower. Each flower has 8 petals and the center is filled with bright yellow pollen sacs, making this 1 to 2 inch flower very unique looking.

The foliage of the evening primrose is lanced-shaped, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch wide, with a point on the tip of the leaf. The leaf closely resembles the leaf of the zinnia garden flower and it does have a bit of sheen to it as long as there is moisture in the soil; when the soil is dry the sheen fades.

The new growth will have a bit of red on the stems and foliage when it first develops. If you rub the mature leaf you will feel a slight fuzzy hair growth on it also. The plant will grow 12 to 24 inches tall, depending on your soil and available moisture. The plant will spread with its fibrous roots very easily, so it can be divided in the spring or fall for friends and family. The plant also starts new seedlings with the many seeds pods the flowers produce during the summer months. When you plant evening primroses in your garden, give them room to grow as they will spread from 1 to 2 feet wide.

The evening primrose is very hardy and will tolerate temperatures down to 30 degrees below zero. If you can apply a thin layer of bark mulch or compost on the garden bed 1 to 2 inches thick the plant can grow almost anywhere in the country. Your soil quality will determine the height of the plant and the amount of flowers on the plant during the summer, so prepare it properly before planting. If you can add compost, animal manure or peat moss with Soil Moist granules when conditioning the soil, your plants will thrive and the flowers will continue to develop from late June right through August.

Fertilize spring and fall with Flower-Tone or Dr. Earth Flower fertilizer with Pro-Biotic. When the plant is in bloom fertilize every other week with Fertilome Blooming and Rooting Soluble Plant food 9-59-8 or Miracle Gro 20-20-20 to encourage bigger and more flowers on the plant. The plant is drought tolerant but if the weather gets hot and dry watering weekly will help keep plant more productive and in constant flower.

Insect and disease problems are rare and the plant is usually pest and insect free all year long, a real plus. In the fall cut the foliage of the plant to the ground and if it's beginning to get out of control, dig up and remove what you do not want. Fall is also a great time to transplant or divide the plant for friends and family. Pick the seed pods from the plant in the fall and place them in a paper bag to dry. As the pods dry they will explode, ejecting the seeds, and the paper bag will catch the seeds. Scatter the seeds in open fields to create wildflowers living in the tall grasses. Honey bees and butterflies love the flowers and they will be drawn to the garden all summer long. Also some varieties of the evening primrose are fragrant.

Plant evening primroses in rock gardens or as perennial borders, use as edging along a walk way, as a ground cover in soils that are not rich or thick in depth, and in containers. If you have a sloping hillside and are having a problem with erosion, plant evening primroses every 18 inches and apply bark mulch 2 inches thick. In just a couple of years the plants will fill in the area and your hillside will not move again, and you have the bonus of yellow flowers all summer long. Don't forget they will tolerate road salt, so plant them along the road for a unique roadside garden flower.

The Latin name of this family of plants is Oenothera fruticosa--common sundrops, not to be confused with the common garden primrose called Primula. This is one of the reasons that all plants have both a Latin name and English name, to prevent confusion, as the same plant can have several common names depending on where you live.

Evening primroses have many new hybrids available today and your local garden center will have pink, white and yellow colors available in their perennial flower section or you can purchase seeds from seed catalogs or on the internet. Plant the seeds directly in the garden in the early spring, and most of the time they will flower the first year, even in infertile soil. You must try this plant. Enjoy!

Mountain Laurel
  When I was going to school at the University of Massachusetts, The Stockbridge School of Agriculture, I enjoyed my drive to and from school to my home in Scituate, Massachusetts, because of the mountain laurel that was in bloom during late May and June. As I drove home on Route 2 and other back roads from Amherst, Mass., the woods along the side of the road were filled with thousands of wild-growing and native mountain laurels. They loved growing just under the tree canopy on the side of the road but grew just as well all over the undisturbed woodland where they were able to get a bit of direct sunshine during the day.

The wild mountain laurel grew rounded and very dense in a sunny location but where the shade was denser, the plant did grow taller and a bit more open. Mountain laurel is a broadleaf evergreen plant that makes flowers 3/4 to 1 inch across. These flowers come in clusters of 25 or more, and inside the cup-shaped flower, you will find 10 stamens that give the white flower a bit of color contrast. The flowers open slowly over a long period, lasting on the plant for 6 to 8 weeks. You seldom see flower clusters with individual flowers in all stages of development. The buds begin as small rounded ball shaped buds but as they mature, they begin to take the shape of a fat looking star getting ready to burst open. The flower resembles a five sided cup-type flower. The cluster has flowers and flower buds in all sizes and shapes in the same cluster, giving the rounded ball flower cluster much character.

I like the mountain laurel better than the rhododendrons--and much more than the azaleas--when they are in bloom, because the foliage and the flowers look so delicate together--almost like lace. The flower cluster can grow to 4, 5 or even 6 inches in diameter and form on the tip of the branches (the growth made last year). The wild forms will occasionally give you a bit of pink color in the flower but white is the norm. But the best is yet to come and you need to know about the foliage first.

The foliage is beautiful and evergreen, growing 2 to 5 inches long and about 2 inches wide. The leaf shape is oval with a point on its tip and it is deep green and shiny. New gardeners often confuse the mountain laurel with the bay leaf plant, as they look very similar at first glance. When the new growth first forms on the top of the plant, it will have a beautiful bronze tinge to it for several weeks before turning to the wonderful dark shiny green.

Plant mountain laurel in a location with half a day of shade; the secret to the best plant is a location with partial winter shade. I have several at my house and they are planted under tall pine trees, in the back of the house where they receive late-day sun or near a stockade fence where it is also sheltered from winter winds. If you plant them where they will get direct sun during the winter months you will have a lot of leaf damage cause by the winter sun and wind, so select a sheltered area for happy plants and no winter damage. If you're in a windy location, you can help your plant survive better during the winter months with 2 to 3 applications of Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop anti-desiccant spray. You can also cover plants with sheets of burlap, if you live near the water, to cut down on the wind hitting the foliage.

Mountain laurel loves a moist soil but not standing water, so you'll need good drainage around the plant. A soil that is rich in organic matter like peat moss, animal manure or compost will be best. Remember these plants are native, growing in a wooded area where fallen leaves and pine needles cover the soil every fall and help to enriched that soil. In your garden, be sure to add 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch around the plant to control soil moisture during the heat of summer and to prevent frost damage as the ground begins to freeze and thaw all winter long.

The plant will flower before the new growth forms on the plant in July and August; those flower buds are on the tip of the branches. Now remember this, because if you prune your plants in the fall or early spring to control the size of the plant you will also remove ALL the flower buds from the plant. Pruning is done to control the size of the plant as soon as the flowers begin to fade on the plant in early July and not before or after! If your plants are getting tall, you can cut them back as much as 1/3 at the designated time in July.

Fertilize your plants in the spring with Holly Tone or Dr. Earth Rhododendron and Azalea Food with Pro-biotic every spring to keep the plants flowering and to increase foliage production for thick plants. Mountain laurel should not be limed, as these wonderful plants love acid soil! When first planted, water the plants 2 times a week until the fall of the year and if you can treat plants with two or more applications of Plant Thrive with mycorrhizae, it will help get them established faster and make them hardier for the winter. Do not plant mountain laurel if you have deer that frequent your property--they will eat them, unless your yard is fenced in.

Now for the big surprise about hybrids of the mountain laurel family: if you like this plant, I have a real treat for you, because the new hybrids come with red buds, pink buds and white buds. Some of the red bud varieties will have red centers, pink centers or even white centers. The pink bud types will have white centers or white centers with red or pink markings inside the flower. The new white hybrids will have white buds with red, pink or burgundy markings inside the flower. Today there are over 75 hybrids and new ones coming out every year. Some new varieties are dwarf, some have miniature foliage, and some even grow more upright than spreading.

Your average mountain laurel will grow as tall as 10 feet or more but with pruning the height can easily be controlled. This wonderful plant is hardy from Northern Maine to northern Florida and west to the Rockies. Plant with azaleas for early color; your rhododendron will bloom for mid-season color and then you have the mountain laurel for late color, April to July. Mountain laurel will look great if you are trying to create a natural look to your shaded property. They love to grow near stone walls and look great in the same planting bed as hollies, ilex and boxwood.

Try planting them in a shady perennial garden, a shady rock garden, or as a foundation plant around your home. And do plant some mountain laurel if you have a grouping of tall tines trees near your home. Mountain laurel are at their peak color now, so visit your local nursery and pick out the flower type you like best or choose several different types for a beautiful May and June garden show and gorgeous winter foliage. Enjoy!



"I grow my own vegetables for two reasons: the quality of the crops I can produce myself, and the quality of the time I spend doing it."

Barbara Damrosch



         Roland's bacon wrapped Asparagus               





2 pounds of fresh picked Asparagus from the garden


12 slices of a meaty maple flavored bacon


1/2 cup of brown sugar 1/2 cup of butter


1 tsp of soy sauce


1 table spoon  of minced garlic


1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper


Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Divide your asparagus into 12 even bunches  and snap off the ends.
Wrap the bacon around the Asparagus bunches starting 1 inch from the bottom and work your way to the top of the spears.
Secure the bacon to the asparagus with tooth picks to hold them together.  Place the wrapped bunches on a shallow baking pan or
Grooved baking pan. Spray the pan with Olive oil or Pam to prevent sticking.


Combine the brown sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally
Until mixture thickens and is well dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes.  Pour the mixture over the Asparagus bundles and bake for 25 to 30 minutes
Until the spears are tender near the base of the spear. The bacon should be fully cooked and crisp so when you see the top is crispy
 Flip the bundle over to cook the under side, until ready to serve.


If you do not like Bacon you can use Prosciutto Ham sliced on the thin side like cold cuts.
Serve immediately.
Steamed, boiled or baked Asparagus is wonderful but this will have your family talking.








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  Written by Paul Parent                         Produced by Christine Parent

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