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Shade loving Begonias
Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
Glorious Glads for your summer garaden



Gladiolus is one of a few summers flowering bulbous plants that most everyone can recognize, even non-gardeners. The foliage is sword-like and develops on the side of an upright stem. All the flowers develop on one side of this spike, opposite and just above each other, are irregular in shape but in the form of an open trumpet. This type of a flower is called a tapering flower spike; the gladiolus is also called the "Sword Lily" in Europe.

Gladioulus is one of the most popular summer-flowering bulbs, just because it is so beautiful and easy to grow. And you can save the bulb after the first frost, store it in your basement and replant the following spring. The gladiolus originated in South Africa and was brought to northern-hemisphere gardeners thanks to explorers many years ago, in 1774. The bulb has gone through many changes from the original plant to today's new hybrids. Hybridization has created many new colors, color combinations, flower sizes, plant heights--and even double flower types.

Gladiolus bulbs are classified botanically as CORMS, not true bulbs but that is OK--it is easier for us to find and understand these wonderful plants. They are remarkably easy to grow anywhere in your garden, well-drained soil as long as it receives plenty of sun during the day. Plant bulbs in a garden where the soil has been conditioned before you plant with organic matter like compost and animal manure and watch the flowers grow bigger, the plant taller--and the flowers will last longer in your garden.

They will not do well in a clay type soil that stays wet after a good rain or watering, as bulbs will rot in the ground easily. If your soil is all clay-like and heavy, purchase a whiskey barrel and plant them as a container plant for midsummer color. They do grow tall but do not need to be staked as their stems are very strong and will hold the many flowers without falling over. Wind-swept areas should be avoided, when possible, to prevent damage to stems.

As a cut flower, gladioli will brighten up any room and usually last for well over a week. The flowers open from the bottom of the stem first and slowly move up the stem until most of the flowers have opened. The stem will have as many as eight to ten flowers open at the same time, making a colorful tall arrangement in a vase on your table. As the lower flowers fade, remove them and re-cut the stems to keep the arrangement looking fresh and clean. If the weather is hot, add ice every morning to the vase to help slow down the rate of opening.

Gladioli are in the same family of plants as the iris; look at the leaves of both plants and see the similarities. Gladioli that stay in the garden will flower longer that when cut and put in a vase of water. Plant in the spring when the ground has warmed up and the weather is frost-free. If you plant early and the weather is cold and wet, your bulbs could rot in the ground--so wait!

Plant bulbs three inches deep and space bulbs six inches apart to give them room to grow. I always add Soil Moist to help hold moisture if soil is sandy, and to grow stronger plants, a fertilizer that contains Mycorrhizae, like Bulb-Tone or Dr. Earth Bulb Food with pro-biotic.

In the fall when the frost kills the foliage to the ground, pull up the plant from the ground and you will notice that there are now TWO bulbs together. Remove the foliage from the top of the bulbs and discard the lower bulb. The lower bulb was the original bulb you planted in the spring and it has formed a new bulb during the summer and sent all its energy to it for next year. If you cared for it properly, the top bulb should be larger and stronger.

Store your bulbs in an old pair of panty hose and hang them from the rafters in your basement for the winter. I also add a bit of Rose and Flower Dust to them just to keep winter insects off. Enjoy.


Lavender Fields and Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
Lavender Fields and Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
Helenium-Helen Flowers



My favorite tall-growing perennial daisy flower that blooms during the summer and well into the fall is the Helenium family. These plants are beautiful and treasured by gardeners for the daisy-like flowers they produce all summer long in such large numbers on the plant. The Helenium family is named after Helen of Troy, for her beauty. Helen of Troy never saw these plants, as they are native to North and Central America, but she would have loved them if she had seen them.

This family of plants has flowers with many colors from rich mahogany, burnt-orange, orange-yellow, gold, yellow and red. The flower head is a ring of long and narrow petals around a raised button-like cone covered with colorful flower florets. The flower stays small--about one to two inches across--but the number of flowers each plant produces is what the plant is known for. As the flower fades, the cone will fill with small seeds that will attract small finches and chickadees to your garden. The first flowers open during June and last well into the fall season. Because this family of plants has so many members, you will find early, mid-season and late flowering types--but all bloom into the fall.

Plant seedlings in the spring with animal manure and compost, as plants will respond to the extra care you give them. Because the plant grows so large, I like to add Soil Moist water retention granules when planting. This will help retain water around the plant when the weather gets dry. The better the soil, the larger the plants will grow and the more flowers the plant will make. The garden soil should be well drained and free of clay.

During the summer, keep the plants well watered--especially if the weather gets hot and dry--or plants will grow smaller. Plants will tolerate a moist to wet soil, as long as they do not sit in standing water for long times.

In the spring, add a bit of compost as a mulch cover around the plant for a bit of extra energy and help keep the roots cool. Fertilize the plants in the spring with a fertilizer that contains mycorrhizae microbes in it, as this will help generate a strong root system and increase the number of flower buds. Be sure to work it into the soil well around the plants; do not just sprinkle it on top of the soil or the microbes will not work as well.

The foliage is dark green, oval with a point on the tip of the leaf and has small teeth around the edge of the leaf like a saw. Some varieties will have hairy leaves also. The stems are strong and some of the varieties have a unique characteristic that resembles a wing growing on the stem--very similar to the burning bush shrub.

In the spring, when the plant reaches 15 to 24 inches tall, cut back the plant by about 3 to 4 inches and the plant will double the amount of branches it will make --that means double the flowers. The Helenium plants will grow 3 to 5 feet tall before they begin to develop flower buds and spread 2 to 3 feet wide, so give them room to grow in your garden. In a windy area, you may have to stake the plants if not protected from strong winds.

In some parts of the U.S., the plant is also called sneezeweed--but it will not make you sneeze. Unfortunately for the plant, it is in bloom when most allergy plants, like ragweed, are in bloom. If you have delicate skin, this plant may cause an allergic skin reaction on some people. Like many other plants in your garden, it is poisonous if eaten, so keep it out of your salad. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators love the flowers and are constantly in your garden, so it might be a good perennial flower to plant near a vegetable garden to help draw the bees to it.


Butterfly weed - Great for Butterflies


Did you know that you could plant a wildflower that is perennial in your garden and has just one job in nature? That job is to feed butterflies while it gives you weeks and weeks of beautiful star like flowers. This special plant is called the butterfly weed and will thrive in gardens from Minnesota to Maine and south to Florida.

The butterfly weed thrives in sunny gardens, meadows and butterfly gardens. The flowers and leaves are an important food source for the monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars), and other butterflies will feed on the flowers of this plant, as will bees.

Butterfly weed is in the same family as milkweed but does not have the milky white sap found in milkweed. If you find the Monarch butterfly caterpillar eating the foliage on your plant, it is O.K. to pick him up and move him to your wild milkweed plant growing around your home.

Did you know that the wild milkweed that grows around our home is poisonous to most caterpillars, except the Monarch butterfly? The eggs of the Monarch butterfly are laid on the leaves of the plant and a multicolored caterpillar will emerge during the summer, feeding on the foliage. The leaves are bitter and the caterpillar absorbs the taste into his body, keeping birds and predators away. If a bird or predator should feed on this caterpillar, it will be his last meal.

Butterfly weed produces a round cluster of small ball-shaped flower buds 2 to 3 inches wide. The flower buds will open into a small star-shaped flower with five petals and a raised center. The flowers will range from orange, to red, yellow, pink and even white. Orange is the most common color found at nurseries but yellow is now getting more popular.

When pollinated, a seedpod will develop filled with flat seeds that are attached to a silky hair. When the pod is ripe it will break open and the seed will float away with the wind and start new plants in your gardens or an open field. The leaves are lance shaped, 1/2 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long, with a medium shiny green color. Plants grow best in slightly acid soil that is well drained all year long.

Once established in your garden, it does not transplant easily because, like the milkweed, it has a taproot. Start new plants with cuttings or seed in the spring. I would suggest that you place a label where the plant is, as it is very slow to develop in the spring and you might accidently plant something else in its place.

Plant the butterfly weed in a location where winter water and ice will not accumulate. If you have a garden on the side of the hill, a soil on the sandy side or raised flowerbeds, this is a wonderful plant for you. Butterfly weed will grow very well with Joe-pie weed, turtleheads, yarrow, daylilies and all types of ornamental grasses.

Plant new seedlings with compost and animal manure in the spring or purchase established plants during August. Water regularly like any new plant and fertilize with Dynamite fertilizer every spring. Once I see the plant has grown to 4 to 6 inches tall, I it often with a liquid fertilizer like Dr. Earth Liquid flower food. I add 2 inches of compost around the plant to help keep it strong during the winter. The plants will grow 2 feet tall and just as wide. If you remove the faded flowers as they go by, the plant may have time to rebloom before the fall weather gets too cold.

Butterfly weed has few problems with insects or disease. Aphids can sometimes develop on the plant--the insect will be the same color as the flower on the plant. Use the hose, and spray the aphids off the plant when you water it. A couple of sprayings a week with a strong burst of water will clean the plants in just a few days.

Planting them near early-growing perennials will help catch the heat of the day and buffer the wind early in the spring. The clear and bright yellow and orange flower color is rare to find in your perennial garden and the flowers are almost waxy looking, making them stand out.



Tomato Horn Worms are coming



It's a wonderful day to be in the garden until you notice some missing foliage on your tomato plants! On closer inspection you notice that the beautiful foliage has been removed from the upper part of your plant--and it was there last night. All that remain are the stems of the tomato leaves attached to the stems of the plant; some flowers are still there...and then it happens. You see that some of the tomatoes have been partially eaten. You're now upset and you begin the search for this CREATURE that had the nerve to eat your plant. You notice square shaped droppings on the foliage and on the ground and you smile because he must be nearby and you want him DEAD.

You look on top of the leaves and he is not there, he is not on the stems but you now begin to look under the leaves and you find him. WOW you say to yourself because he is the biggest caterpillar you ever saw--and he will get even bigger, up to four inches long and one inch in diameter, like a hot dog feeding on your tomato plant. You look at him closely and he is the same color green as your tomato plant foliage; no wonder you did not see him sooner! His head is bent over and he is busy eating and not scared of you. He has white and black lines on his body like medals he earned for each leaf he ate on your plant and on the end of his body a deep RED horn that waves back and forth warning you not to bother him while he is eating.

This creature is a giant eating machine that will eat up to 2 to 3 times his body weight in foliage every day, and he gets bigger every day so he eats more every day that he is in your garden. He is the largest caterpillar in North America; he has come to your garden--and he is hungry! Don't run back to the house to hide the kids and pets; it's time for action, and now is the time to act.

My Mother always used a coffee can filled with soapy water to kill them after she picked them off the plant with her garden gloves on. She made MAD faces and she talked to these creatures as she found them on the plant and then dumped them into their soapy water grave and laughed as they sank to the bottom of the container. Tomato horn worms don't swim very well, "HA HAHA!" I don't use a can of soapy water when I find them on my plants. I just drop them to the ground and tell them the end is near as I raise my leg off the ground and quickly drive the heel of my shoe on top of them driving them into their grave, "HA HAHA!"

These creatures came from a giant moth, called the "hawk moth," and it's also known as the "hummingbird moth." The eggs were laid under the leaf so you cannot find them and they hatch just a few at a time so if you think you found them all, you're mistaken; more will come to feed on your tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. The eggs hatch in 4 to 5 days and when the hornworm emerges from the egg, it will feed for up to 4 weeks on plants in your garden before it falls to the ground and pupates until next year. The pupa spends the winter in your garden soil and emerges in the spring to mate and start the cycle all over again.

Now do you control them in your garden? The best way is to roto-till your garden every fall to destroy them in the soil, with results of up to 90% kill. Now there is a better way to do the job and that is with a small wasp called Cotesia congregatus. This wasp will lay eggs in the back of the tomato hornworm and as they develop they will feed on the inside of the hornworm until they are ready to pupate. The cocoons will appear on the back of the tomato hornworm; they resemble white puffed wheat. As the wasps emerge from the cocoons, they will kill the hornworm and fly to others in your garden, killing them by parasitizing them. These wasps also feed on cabbage loppers and other garden caterpillars. If you see a hornworm with this puffed wheat-like growth on his back, move him to a plant where he will not be hurt as each infected hornworm can contain 15 to 25 wasps that will help keep your garden free of this creature.

Other than the wasps, the best, most effective and natural method to KILL these tomato hornworms is a new bacterium called Spinosad found in the Caribbean a few years ago. Just spray on your garden and all the caterpillars will die in just a few hours. Spinosad is safe for beneficial insects, birds, pets, and the environment as it kills only caterpillar-type insects. You can eat vegetables the same day you spray as long as you rinse the vegetables well before eating. Spinosad is also sold under the name Captain Jack made from Bonide Lawn and Garden. The old product we did use was Sevin Garden Dust or Spray, but it is very toxic to beneficial insects like bees and should never now be used in the garden. Sevin is old school pesticide and harmful to the pollinators in our garden, so stay away from this product.


Tomato Blossom end rot

The tomato plant is the number one vegetable grown in the home garden and there is nothing more frustrating than watching your tomatoes develop and then find that the bottom of that tomato is all black and rotten. It usually happens to the first tomato to ripen in your garden and that is the one tomato we really wanted to pick and eat...just devastating. What's worst, we never saw this rot until the tomato began to ripen, because it develops on the bottom of the tomato and the top and sides look perfect.

Blossom-end rot is a plant disorder, not a fungus problem treatable with a fungicide. The rot develops at the base of the flower where it was attached to the young tomato. In its early stage it is unnoticeable unless you look real close to the tomato for a soft depression or soft water-soaked spot. It can happen at any time during the growth of the tomato, but in most case it begins to develop quickly when the tomato is one- third to one-half full matured. The spot will enlarge quickly as the fruit matures and it will usually cover as much as one-third to half of the bottom of the tomato. This spot will eventually dry up creating a leathery looking, black flattened bottom on the tomato.

The good news is that this plant disorder will not spread from plant to plant, nor from tomato to tomato on the same plant. The environment is the cause of the problem and this is easily corrected. The first problem causing blossom-end rot is moisture to the plant, and that is why it is most frequently found on container grown tomatoes, it is caused by uneven watering practices in your garden. When your tomatoes are growing fast, especially in the spring and you forget to water or in the case of the containers, they are too small for the plant, the roots will dry up and the plant will go into a stress condition. Tomatoes need one inch of water EVERY week to prevent this from happening. During hot weather, water your container grown tomatoes every morning!!!

The second problem is the lack of calcium in your soil. Calcium is needed to grow a mature fruit on the tomato plant. Acid soils are a common cause to this problem and adding limestone each fall to the garden will prevent this from happening. Jonathan Green Magic-Cal, Bonide Turf Turbo or  wood ash will help fix the soil pH faster in the spring. A soil test should read 6.5 to 7.0 PH to prevent this problem. Also adding Garden Gypsum, soil conditioner will help prevent calcium deficient soils.

The next problem is cultivating to close to the plant and hurting the root system, so it cannot move the amount of water needed up to the plant as it is growing. If weeds are a problem, use mulch or straw around the plant and keep the garden hoe away! Landscape fabric is wonderful also and that is what I use to control weeds and warm up the soil ahead of the season, giving my plants a jump on the season with a nice warm soil.

Also over-feeding the plant early during the season can cause this problem making the plant grow too quickly. If you grow your own plants, be sure to harden them off properly by bring them out of a warm house to the cooler outside during the day and then back inside at night for several days to prepare the plant for the change of environment.

If you see infected fruit, remove it from the plant as soon as possible so the plants energy is sent to good healthy fruit and not to damaged tomatoes.  Monterey Lawn and Garden has developed a special fertilizer for tomatoes that will eliminate this problem in your garden and especially in container grown tomatoes, called "Agri-foss." It is available at most good garden centers. If you have this problem on your plants now, be sure to apply this special product around your tomatoes and the problem will be solved.

Blossom end rot will also happen to all types of peppers, summer-type squash and eggplant. Peppers have black rotten holes on the side and at the bottom of the fruit. Squash and eggplant will begin to shrivel just below the flower and quickly resemble a chewed up cigar as they rots and fall over on the planta. Use the same method to control the problem. If you do not try to change these problems you could lose up to 50% of your vegetables on these plants this summer, so do not put it off any longer--especially with all this heat.




Cold Fresh Cherry Soup


1 1/2 pound of fresh picked red cherries, pitted.
1 cup of a dry red wine
1 cup of cold water
1 tablespoon of light brown sugar


6 tablespoons of sour cream
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/4 pure almond extract
4 rounded tablespoons of lemon sorbet


Bring cherries, wine, cold water,and brown sugar
To a boil in a medium sauce pan.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes.
Remove cherries and puree them in a food processor.
Pour into a glass bowl along with mixture in the
Sauce pan. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and
Chill for 2 hours.


Add the sour cream, lemon juice and almond extract
And whisk until smooth. Ladle soup into chilled bowls and
Top with lemon sorbet. 
Serve immediately or refrigerate until your ready to serve.


Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.


Makes servings for 4 people or double the recipe if your
Expecting more people.


Cold Cherry soup is delicious before any meal to get the
Pallet ready for the main meal.

"Working in the garden gives me something beyond the enjoyment of the senses.  It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace."

Ruth Stout


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  Written by Paul Parent                         Produced by Christine Parent

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