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Nothing tastes better than fresh Cucumbers from the garden
Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter

Late summer flowering Caryoptieris


Summer is the time of the year that most of us spend much of our free time outside enjoying our yard and gardens. I would like to tell you about a flowering shrub that is often overlooked for late summer to fall color; best of all, it thrives on neglect. This wonderful plant will look great in informal and more casual settings like around your patio, pool, or deck. The plant is covered with an abundance of bright blue flowers that will draw every butterfly in the neighborhood to your yard and garden. Are you interested in a plant that will allow you to cut flowers from it and give you hard-to-find blue flowers for table arrangements? If so, this is also a plant for you to consider.

Caryopteris will become a very valuable plant for your summer garden because of its wonderful soft gray-green foliage, or dark green, glossy foliage, or intense silver foliage--or even the new shiny yellow foliage the plant makes from the spring to the fall season. Even without the flowers, this plant will stand out in your landscaping beds. The plant will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. It will stay nice and compact--a rounded or spreading mound, depending on the variety you select. You can also control the size of the plant with your yearly pruning in the spring to encourage more new growth and flowers. Each leaf will grow 1 to 2 inches long and less than an inch in width with small indentations on its edge.

The flower develops on the tip of the branches and on the new growth made by the plant during the early summer. This new growth is usually 10 to 12 inches long and the stems are strong, making them perfect for cut flower arrangements. These flower stems completely cover the plant from the soil to the top of the plant. The flowers come in small clusters 1 to 3 inches in diameter. The flower buds open a few at a time, making the plant colorful. The flowers last for many weeks on the plant, giving it much color from late summer until frost.

The flower is a spike-like bloom but much different looking than the traditional spike flower--unlike the snapdragon or gladiolus, for example. As the flower stem develops, two flower clusters form opposite each other on the stem, containing a dozen or more tiny 1/4 to 1/2" flowers. As these flower clusters begin to open, a new stem will form in between the two flower clusters. This new stem will grow right above the flower clusters and grow 2 to 3 inches tall before making two more flower clusters. This process will continue from early August right up until frost.

Caryopteris will grow in a sandy loam that is well drained and will do quite well for you. But if you condition the soil with compost, animal manure, or peat moss when planting, it will thrive and put on a flower show in your garden like no other plant in your yard has ever done. The plant will not do well in heavy clay-like soil where water can collect during wet weather. When you plant, also add Soil Moist granules to help hold moisture around the newly forming roots. During the first year in your garden you will have to water a couple times a week until the plant is established. Once the plant becomes well-established in your garden, water it regularly, especially if the weather gets to be hot and dry.

Fertilize the plant in the spring, with a granular slow-release fertilizer like Plant-Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub and Tree fertilizer with Pro Biotic. If you want more flowers on the plant, feed the plant when it's in bloom with a liquid fertilizer like Dr. Earth liquid shrub food.

Because the plant makes the flowers on the new growth made during the summer, it is important for you to cut back the plant in late March to mid-April to stimulate this new growth on the plant; this pruning will also control the size of the plant at the same time. Using hedge shears cut back the plant by 1/3 to 1/2 of its original size and create the shape you desire. If you cut the plant flat on top, it will spread more--or you can leave more on the top and cut back the sides to create a plant that is more mounded in shape. Always prune in the spring and never in the fall or the cuts you make on the plant may not have enough time to scab over and seal before winter arrives. In a cold climate with a lot of wind you could have many branches that will die back on the plant.

The soil around the plant should be covered with 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch or compost to help control weeds, retain water in the soil during the summer heat, and protect the roots during the winter months. Stone mulch will dry up the soil around the plant quickly during the summer and is not recommended for this plant. The caryopteris will do best when planted in a sunny garden but it will tolerate a bit of early morning or late in the day shade. The plant is winter hardy and will tolerate temperatures down to -20 degrees when planted out of the direct wind, so place plant near a fence, evergreen shrubs, or a stone wall.

Insect and disease problems are minimal, making this plant maintenance free. Plant caryopteris near white fall-flowering hydrangea, such as the PG hydrangea, 'Vanilla-Strawberry' hydrangea, or the 'Pinky-Winky' hydrangea for great color contrast in your garden. In the fall plant flowering cabbage and flowering kale near the plant for great texture and color contrast in your garden. This is a plant you want growing in a garden where you spend time enjoying the outside. So sit back and enjoy your garden filled with flowers and lots of butterflies this year when you plant the caryopteris shrub in your garden.



Patti Page
Patti Page "Old Cape Cod" 1957 My Extended Version!
Fall flowering gaint crocus - Colchicum


This week I want you to call your local nursery/garden center and ask them to order for you a fall flowering crocus called Colchicum. Some stores will have them, and you will be in luck because this crocus not only flowers in the fall but it is a "giant" bulb with giant flowers. The bulb will be as large as a tennis ball with a point on top.

When I was in college, I asked one of my teachers why we need to know the Latin names of plants. My teacher told me because most plants have different names in different countries and many nicknames, but the Latin name was the same no matter where you lived. Here is the perfect example and you will love this, so use this name on your garden friends. Colchicum's nickname in Europe is "naked-lady," because it makes its foliage in the springtime, so when in bloom no foliage is present around the flowers--hence the nickname.

This fall-flowering crocus comes up in May with a cluster of leaves that resemble those of a hyacinth plant. The foliage grows six to eight inches tall and two inches wide in a clump eight to ten inches across. The foliage of the plant is deep green and shiny, and it will last for a month or more in the garden before turning yellow to brown and then fall apart. Most of us have forgotten what we planted so we wait for color and nothing forms from the clump but foliage.

In the fall they flower, beginning to push their way out of the ground two or three at a time. The flowers grow 4 to 6 inches tall and resemble a crocus but much bigger. The flower is goblet-shaped and made up of six flower petals, truly striking to see coming up in your garden with no foliage. As the flowers start to fade, the color changes from lilac-pink or rosy-purple to pale lavender. The flower slowly falls over on the ground and another bloom develops to replace it in the clump. In time ,it possible to have as many as 30 or more flowers on the ground and straight up in the clump--almost like a bouquet resting on the ground of your garden.

Plant the bulbs in a well-drained soil in a sunny location out of the wind. I like planting them near a large shrub or statuary, so I do not accidently dig them up or cut into them when planting something else in the area. Dig a large hole, 6 inches deep, and condition the soil with compost or animal manure before planting.

If your soil is sandy, be sure to put in a pinch of Soil Moist water retention granules to help keep the plant well watered. The bulb should have four inches of soil covering it, and the bulb should be watered well after planting. Once the roots form, the flowers will develop in a couple of weeks. I also add a couple inches of bark mulch over the bulb for extra winter protection.

If you like different flowers try this with your Colchicum bulbs this fall: place the bulb point up in a shallow dish like a Jell-O or pudding dish and add one inch of water to the dish. Keep the water in the dish at all times. In just two weeks, the bulb will begin to send a flower out of the top of the bulb and it will bloom in the dish for two to three weeks. When the flowers stop, plant the bulb in the garden and the roots will form in the ground quickly. Next spring foliage will form and next fall the flowers will "magically" come out of the ground.

Fertilize in the spring and again in the fall with Bulb-Tone fertilizer and watch the flower numbers grow. The Colchicum is very hardy bulb and will thrive in the garden from northern New England to Georgia, even where temperatures get down to -40 degrees. If you do not disturb the bulb, it will last for many years and grow larger each year.

This bulb was originally found in Turkey growing on mountainsides so it is very strong and makes a great plant for wildflower gardens, rock gardens, naturalizing or just a unusual flower for your garden that flowers in September and October. By the way, this flower is not actually in the crocus family--it is just called a fall crocus because it looks like one; actually it is closely related to the lily family. This bulb is worth the search to find and you will love it as I do mine. Enjoy!




Hardy ferns for a shady garden


We all have a place in the yard under tall trees where we have planted grass seed for years--and still the grass will not grow. Many of us have dug out the area and replaced it with bark mulch and a few shrubs just to make the area look presentable but it's not what we want, not another shrub garden to care for. If you have this problem then I have a suggestion for you to consider that you may like? How about a fern garden? Because ferns are perennial, so they return every year, and they spread and become larger every year. Ferns come in hundreds of varieties that will give you different heights, different colors, different textures, some are scented, with great fall color, and some even have flowers. Best of all there are no insects or disease problems and no MAINTENANCE for this new garden--just enjoyment.

The fern has been around longer than any other plant on our planet. Scientists say they have been around for as long as 220 million years and were growing under those tall shady trees even before the dinosaurs came into existence. The dinosaurs are long gone now but this plant, the fern, is still prospering from Antarctica to your yard--no matter where you live on the planet-but still, as Rodney Dangerfield often said, "They get no respect."

Ferns are soft plants with character; they look soft because of their texture as they creep across the once barren ground where only weeds once grew; their beauty in a mass planting will give you a calming effect as you walk between them. I think the ferns do for a shady garden what the grass does for the sunny lawn.

Let's compare the two and you will see what I mean: the lawn needs to be fertilized several times a year to keep it green and thick-growing. The lawn gets weeds that need to be removed or the grass looks less appealing. The lawn can have insect and disease problems which require costly chemical control to solve the problem; if not treated it will die or animals and birds will dig it up looking for these insect pests living in the soil. During the summer months you have to water the grass or it will turn brown, spoiling the appearance of your home and gardens. Your lawn must be cut weekly to look its best and that takes time from your busy day and creates more work for you in the yard. With all this negative information, our home is a better place because of the lawn growing around it.

Ferns once planted and established are self-sufficient! They need no fertilizer and their thick canopy will block all the sunlight from reaching weeds--and the weeds die off all by themselves. Insect and disease problems are rare to nonexistent with most of the ferns. Ferns adapt to moisture in the soil and can even survive a drought; some varieties even prefer a dry soil to grow in, while others grow on the side of the road and tolerate road salt during the winter months. Unlike most shrubs and trees, the ferns are not eaten by animals like deer who can destroy your plantings in just a few nights of feeding on them. One more thing...ferns are able to reproduce themselves without your help, as they are able to produce millions of spores each year to start new plants where some ferns have died out. It's a no-brainer, so let me tell you about some of the best ferns for your shady areas under those tall growing trees--and you can forget about planting grass seed this fall.

#1 MY favorite is called the Hayscented Fern; it will thrive in part sun to full shade. This fern will grow in moist to dry soil and will tolerate acidic soil under your pines and oak trees; also in rocky soil. If you have a large area to cover this is your fern, because it has the ability to spread quickly in just a few years. It got its name from the scent it releases when the foliage is crushed--fresh cut hay. It is aggressive and makes the perfect plant to control erosion problem areas, and it will also cover other plants growing in the same area, quickly taking over the area and creating a thick blanket of soft foliage. This feat is accomplished by its dense root system and the fronds it produces, choking out everything of its same size quickly. Don't mix this fern with other plants as it will spread over a foot in diameter every year and smother weeds and valuable plants at the same time. The plant is delicate and will break easily if you walk through it frequently. You can dig them up and divide them in the spring or fall in 12 inch clumps. Condition the hole with organic matter like compost, animal manure seaweed kelp and the new coconut coir products for quick development. Plants grow 15 to 24 inches tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.

#2 The Maidenhair Fern is one of my favorites because it is so delicate-looking and has unusual foliage. Like all ferns they grow with underground rhizomes and spread slowly in damp soil and will even grow through thick moss clumps giving your planting area two levels of plants growing together in harmony. You will love the foliage because when it first develops it will have a pinkish-brown look; then it turns coppery bronze and then bright green before settling down during the summer months to a dark green color. This fern loves dampness and will do great near water or wet areas where it is difficult to get plants to grow. Keep the plants moist for the first couple of years to give them a good chance to get established in your garden. Plants can be divided in the spring. Plants grow 12 tall and 24 inches wide.

#3 Ostrich Fern is the fern that everyone must have in their fern garden as it grows 2 to 4 feet tall and will spread 3 to 6 feet wide. This is another fern that will naturalize easily and makes a great background plant for the garden. The Ostrich fern is the plant that many of us eat in the spring and is found in the vegetable case as the "fiddleheads"-- my favorite spring delicacy from the wild. If you never eaten fiddleheads, they are young ferns still curled up in a tight spiral and when steamed till tender and seasoned with salt, pepper, butter and a bit of vinegar, you are in for a wonderful once-a-year treat. The taste is like a combination of asparagus, spinach and broccoli blended together. The plant also does great when planted along the side of the house, as it does grow tall and helps to hide the concrete foundation of the house or plant it along a raised deck to hide the lattice work and what you store under the deck. The plant also produces many tall growing fronds that are filled with spores and are chocolate brown all winter long before breaking open in the spring to release the many spores to make new plants during the spring and summer months.

#4 Beech Fern is a wonderful wild-growing fern found growing in the woods of New England to a height of 12 to 14 inches tall and which spreads to 3 feet wide. The fern foliage will grow in the shape of a triangle on a strong dark brown stem, almost like individual plants rather than a clump like most ferns. It does not grow thick and full but rather in patches with spaces in between the individual leaves but it does smother weeds easily. This fern keeps producing foliage right up until frost and the ferns always look like it has fresh new foliage developing in the clump. It is easy to grow and it does very well in light to deep shade if the soil is moist. Divide in the early spring before it begins to grow fast. The foliage is pale green and it can be used in flower arrangements to give them a classy look.

#5 The Christmas Fern is the most adaptable of all the ferns and it grows in a nice tight vase shape like a clump. It is wonderful for gardens, as it will not take it over and smother everything in its way. It is also evergreen and stays upright until heavy snow fall. This fern loves growing under tall pine trees and even hardwoods like maples and oaks. It will grow in any type of soil from a loam to even clay type soil and is considered one of the best ferns for a mixed fern garden. Dry or moist and acidic to neutral soil--this is a must for your garden. The plant will grow 15 to 24 inches tall and just as wide. Because it is evergreen, you can pick some of the foliage for your holiday arrangement if snow does not cover the ground.

#6 The Massachusetts Fern is a great fern for part sun to full shade and moist to wet soil that is acidic. It will grow from 15 to 30 inches tall and spread about 2 feet wide. The fern foliage is unique because it looks like a "ladder" or a skeleton of the plant with small thin foliage growing in horizontal branches opposite each other; these branches have a 1 to 2 inch space in between them. The individual fern stems look spindly and have character to them. Most of its growth happens in the late summer and the plant is filled with a surge of new growth like green ladders. It is a long-lasting fern but spreads slowly compared to most other ferns. If you live in Massachusetts this is your State Fern, and a must for your fern garden.

Feed your ferns in the spring with Dynamite fertilizer or Dr. Earth Shrub food with Pro-biotic to help thicken the clumps of ferns. If your soil is on the sandy side, always condition the hole before planting with compost or coconut coir fibers to help hold moisture during the hot days of summer (like this year). Once planted, cover the fern garden with an inch or two of bark mulch to help hold the soil moisture in and control the weeds until they become established. Enjoy.



Fall Tent Caterpillar are now a problem 



In the last couple of weeks, I have begun to notice the arrival of fall webworm caterpillars on the large trees along the side of the road. Every year about this time they arrive and begin to feed on the foliage of our hardwood trees and some shrubs like lilacs--never evergreen trees, thank God. I'm sure you have seen them in the spring and fall and like most of us assumed they were the same type of caterpillar...but they're not. There is one major difference between the two types of caterpillars that means you can easily tell them apart--what season it is (just in case you have lost track of time and seasons).

In the spring, our trees have "tent caterpillars." They start their nest or tents in the crotches inside of the tree branches and eat as much foliage as they can on the tree. As they grow bigger and more numerous the nest grows in size, and it is possible that they can strip the entire tree in just a few weeks. They spend the night in the tent and also rainy days all clustered together to keep warm and dry. When the sun comes up, they move out of the nest and scatter all over the tree to feed individually and can possible kill the tree as the results of this leaf defoliation if it happens several years in a row. Mature adults also feed at night and they eat their body weight in foliage every day.

In the fall our trees have "fall webworms" and they make their nest or tents on the tip of the branches of the trees and eat the foliage inside the tent ONLY--clue number one. As the caterpillars grow larger the nest will also grow larger in size but the caterpillars never leave the nest--clue number 2. They feed on the foliage when the temperatures are warm, and at night during the fall and on rainy days, they cluster together to help keep warm. This caterpillar will only defoliate the leaves of the tree inside the nest and rarely can kill a tree, as the plant is getting ready to shed that foliage anyway at that time of the year. Damage area is very limited--clue number 3. If you look inside the silken tent, you will see pieces of partly eaten foliage and caterpillar droppings inside the tent itself. These are not found in the tent caterpillar nest because they leave the nest to eat and dispose of trash/ waste products--clue number 4. Now, one more thing...the fall webworm tent is stronger and most years it will stay on the tree branches all winter long without causing further damage.

The fall webworm can have one to four generations per year while the spring tent caterpillars have only one generation--a good thing. The fall webworm moth can lay 100 plus eggs while the tent caterpillar moth can lay from 100 to 350 eggs. That is why the spring caterpillar can cause so much more damage--because of the numbers of eggs they must leave the nest in search for food. The nest of the spring tent caterpillar will grow from 18 to 24 inches in size while the fall webworm can reach three feet wide and even longer in size. The spring tent caterpillar nest is delicate and is quickly destroyed by rain and wind during the summer months as the caterpillars leave the nest.

The fall webworm will grow from 1 to 1.25 inches long; they are hairy with distinct dark spots on their backs. They can be either be red or black in color and the red type has yellow hair on its body also, while the red type has reddish brown hair on his body. The spring tent caterpillar grows much larger in size--up to 2 inches long. It has a bluish head is slightly hairy and has powdery blue markings on its side.

When the caterpillars are done feeding, they prepare for the next cycle by making a pupa or cocoon where they prepare to become a moth and begin the egg laying cycle all over again--but each type is different. The fall webworm produces a dark brown lozenge-shaped pupa that is created in ground mulch, cracks, and crevasse of the plant, fences and even in the soil at the base of plants. The spring tent caterpillar are also dark brown in color but the pupa is covered with a silken cocoon that is attached to protected places on plants, fences--off the ground and not in the soil.

The adult fall webworm moth is just over 1/2 inch long and has an all-white body and wings, sometime small black dots on it. The body of the moth can grow up to 1/2 inch long, and they hold their wings swept back--almost looking like a plane. They are nocturnal also. Now, the spring tent caterpillar is brown to reddish brown in color and larger in size about 3/4 inches long. The wings of the moth have paler wavy lines on them. Like the fall webworm hold their wings swept back like a small plane and are active at night only.

Now here is some good news about both these caterpillars. Both types of caterpillars have natural enemies, and that does help to keep their population down. Birds, insect predators, spiders, parasite wasps, natural virus caused by high humidity and rainy seasons help to control their populations. You can help to control the damage by destroying their nest or tent so they have no shelter to gather in for protection during wet weather and cool nights. Don't cut the branch from the tree or you will destroy the shape of the plant and end up doing more damage than the caterpillars can do. Use your hose with a hard burst of water or a long pole to break it apart.

Natural insecticides are very effective when used early on the tent and the foliage on the tree--when insects are still small. B.T. Bacillus thuringiensis insecticide is a natural disease of caterpillars and works very well if applied when small. Newer products called Spinosad  Captain Jack (made by Bonide) are also natural but more potent; they will kill caterpillars that are up to 2 to 3 inches long. Spray the product on the tent and foliage for the best results. If on fruit trees your fruit tree spray should control this pest but 2 to 3 applications may be needed for the spring tent caterpillar and 2 applications for the fall webworm. All Season Oil spray is also very effective if you hit the insect directly. Non-natural products like Garden Eight, Rose and flower sprays and some systemic insecticides do a good job also.

The one good thing about the damage done during the fall season is that the plant does not need to use its stored energy to replace the eaten foliage because the plant is going dormant for the season in just a few weeks. Spring caterpillars cause the tree to use up its stored energy and replace the missing foliage eaten by the caterpillars and this can damage the tree and cause flowering trees like the flowering crabapples to flower less the following year; fruiting trees will also produce less fruit because of fewer flowers on the plant.

So if you see a silk tent on your tree or shrubs this week get out your hose, long sticks and let's break up their protective covering. If all else fails to work, get out the insecticides but DON'T cut off the branch!!



"Good planning takes many other factors into account besides plant choices, including soil building, sun, shade and plant placement."

Ruth Shaw Ernst

Aunt Minnies famous microwave bread and butter pickles


2 cupsCucumberssliced, pressed into 2-cup measuring cup
3/4 cupOnionsmedium sliced
3/4 cupSugarscant cup + 1 Tbls
1 teaspoonSalt 
1/2 teaspoonmustard seed 
1/2  teaspooncelery seed 
1/4 teaspoonturmeric 
1/2 cupwhite vinegar 



Mix all ingredients into microwave-safe dish. Cover and cook 4 minutes on high. Stir again. Cover and cook an additional 4 minutes. Ladle into hot jar(s). It will take three recipes to fill two quart jars. Tastes best if pickles sit in refrigerator for one week. 


The easiest way to sterilize bottles, canning jars and lids is to put them through the dishwasher. Another method is to first wash them in hot sudsy water, rinse them well, and then boil them in water for five minutes.

Remove them with sterilized tongs.

Drain the containers and make sure they are dry before filling, because any moisture may cause mold. Do not let anything that is not sterile(such as towels, unboiled tools or your fingers) touch the inside of the jars.

Jars that will be sealed with paraffin should be both dry and hot when they are filled.



If you don't have pickling cucumbers in your garden, purchase a bush at a farm stand for about $25.00 to make 24 jar


              Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.

Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-985-6972

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $29.95! Limited supply!!

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  Written by Paul Parent                         Produced by Christine Parent

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