September is a great time to plant fall flowering Mums!
A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation by Marty Robbins (1981)
A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation by Marty Robbins (1981)
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fall flowering Montauk Daisy 

As the garden begins to fade with the arrival of the fall season, shorter days and cooler temperatures, one perennial flower is coming into its own season: the Montauk daisy. Some gardeners from the northeast believe since it is named for the town of Montauk on Long Island, New York it originated there, but it originated along the sandy coastal shore of Japan.

This perennial flower does prefer a sandy soil with good drainage and lots of direct sunshine. Unlike most plants, it will thrive in any coastal garden that receives wind, occasional high tide flooding and even wind-driven salt spray from the stormy ocean. This wonderful fall daisy will grow where winter temperatures dip down to -20 to -30 degrees so it is a very hardy plant for your garden. This special daisy is also not bothered by rabbits and deer.

So please consider planting this daisy in your garden this fall as many garden centers grow the plants along with fall mums, flowering cabbage and kale. This special plant will grow large, showy, and easy to grow and requires little to no maintenance. As a bonus, it will attract bees and butterflies well into November. At one time, the Montauk daisy was part of the Chrysanthemum family but was recently renamed to its own origin (Nipponanthemum nipponicum). So call it what you want--chrysanthemum or daisy--it does not matter because this beautiful plant belongs in your garden this fall.

The Montauk daisy is better known on the East Coast than anywhere else in the country. This daisy is a close relative to the Shasta daisy, a wonderful perennial daisy that will flower during the springtime in our gardens. The foliage on both plants is similar, as are the flowers, but they bloom at different times of the year.

The plant grows upright but spreading 2 to 4 feet tall and just as wide. If you allow the plant to grow without pruning, it will become top-heavy and the once thick-growing plant will open up and fall over. The foliage is medium green with rich color and shiny to waxy looking. The leaves grow 2 to 3 inches long, less than an inch wide and cover the plant like a thick growing evergreen shrub.

The flowers buds form during September but do not open until October and last well into November when our other perennial flowers are finished flowering. The flowers form on the tips of the branches on short 1 to 2 inch stems. Each flower will grow 2 to 3 inches wide, with a bright yellow center and one inch long white petals growing around the center. The flowers do not have much of a fragrance but the insects love them, and during this time of the year they do make a great cut flower for the house.

In the fall when plants finally die back and turn brown, cut back the plant to 6 to 12 inches from the ground and cover the plant with pine needles for the winter. In the spring you will notice in early April those stems are now covered with many green buds that will form new branches during the summer. At this time, cut the plant back to 3 to 6 inches tall from the ground and fertilize with Flower-Tone organic fertilizer.

By the first week in July, the plant will have grown to 18 to 24 inches tall and just as wide. If you do not prune it, it will grow to 4 feet tall by October and begin to spread apart, so cut back the plant to 12 inches tall and wide. The plant will now fill in like the shape of a mushroom, growing wider and staying thick and full, growing 18 to 24 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide.

The cuttings you remove in July will root very easily in a pot filled with all-purpose potting soil--or just push the cuttings that you have trimmed to 6 inches long directly into the garden soil that you have conditioned with a bit of animal manure or compost. I also use Soil Moist granules to help retain moisture around cuttings. They should root in just a couple of weeks when placed in a light shade part of the garden--but not full shade.

Once they are rooted, plant them in a bright sunny location in your garden and in the fall you will have a few flowers form on these young cuttings; next year you are in for a real treat. If your plants like your garden soil, they will grow wide and large in just a few years. When the plants mature, you can divide them in the spring by digging them up and splitting them into 2 or 3 pieces to make new plants.

I fertilize regularly during the summer along with my other perennials and check regularly for possible slugs during wet weather--their only problem. If the summer gets hot and dry, water weekly to encourage new growth. Enjoy.
Making Poinsettia bloom in your home

It's that time of the year again...when we must encourage our holiday plant to begin making flower buds and flowers. If you have a Christmas cactus or poinsettia that you kept over from last year and want it to bloom for you again this year, now is the time to help motivate it to flower. It's easy and you can do it if you follow these steps to the letter. Begin by saying to yourself, "I can do this, it's not that hard!"

Let's start with the Christmas cactus, because you will need to provide this plant with several things to make it flower. I have found that this plant will flower easier if you keep it outside during the summer months, if possible. It should stay outside until the temperatures begin to dip down to around 40-50 degrees at night. When you bring the cactus plant inside in the fall, place it in a room that will stay as cool as possible--below 65 degrees.

I like a window that gets plenty of light but does not get mid-day sun, because that will warm up the plant well above 65 degrees. Use your east, west or--better still--your north facing windows that receive no direct sunlight but good light all day and the room will stay cooler. Temperature is one of the determining factors that will encourage flower bud production. If you have a room that is not used often, turn off the heat (if possible) to keep the room at 50 to 65 degrees. At this temperature range, the plant will make MORE flower buds. Keep the plant in that room until the flower buds begin to show color and then you can move it to the room where you will enjoy it.

Now just as important, if not more, is controlling the length of the day light. Christmas cactus is called a "Short Day Plant" in the greenhouse trade, because it will need to have short days of daylight to make the flower buds on the plant. When the sun goes down your plant cannot have any additional light of any type--even the lights in your home--or it will not flower well or at all. So the perfect place to keep this plat is in that unused room in your home where you do not turn on the light when it gets dark out.

When you combine short days and cool temperatures your Christmas cactus plant will have hormone changes and the plant will stop growing foliage and switch to flower bud production. If you keep the Christmas cactus plant in your living room and you watch the television set until the 11:00 PM news is over, you have created an artificial environment. The lights that are on in the room have increased the length of the day and your plant will not flower. That is why your plant needs to be in a room with no light after sunset each day--but once the flower buds have formed on the plant, light is no longer a factor, just cool temperature.

If you can keep the plant cool, it will also bloom longer for you. Keep it near a window and the cold that comes through the window will help cool down the plant better than if it were on a table in the middle of the room. During the winter months water the plant sparingly; the soil should be lightly moist at all times. Fertilize monthly with Neptune's Harvest fish and sea fertilizer or Blooming and Rooting fertilizer.

Christmas cactuses will drop their flower buds if they are exposed to stresses like hot rooms, overwatering, moving the plant around the house several times during the flowering cycle and not being fertilized. Also--when the plant finishes flowering, feed it, and move it back into the cooler room with short days and it will flower again for you in about 6 to 8 weeks--a real bonus for you. Just repeat what you did during November for a second set of flower buds to form on the plant. Again I want you to say "I can do this, it's not that hard." Enjoy!

Now, here is how to make your poinsettia bloom that you kept alive since last Christmas. Like the Christmas cactus, I like to keep it outside during the summer and bring it indoors when the temperatures drop to 40 to 50 degrees at night around late September to early October. Hopefully you repotted the plant into a large pot during the summer to help the plant grow better and increase the size of the plant. If you did not re-pot the plant than you can do it next year, no problem, but do not do it now!

Another thing I like to do during June is to cut the plant back by 1/3 to control the height of the plant and stimulate the plant to make new branches to become bushier. This pruning will also help create a stronger crotch where it branches out, preventing breakage of branches later. Again, if you did not prune the plant back, do it next year.

The Poinsettia is also a "short day plant" that will not flower when the days are long. If you want to help make this plant flower for Christmas, start right now by giving the plant short days. As with the Christmas cactus, use the spare unoccupied room but this time keep it warm like the rest of the house. Temperatures of 60 to 70 are best when the plant is preparing to "flower."

The poinsettia loves sunlight, so a south window exposure will be better for the plant. If there is a street light in front of your house, or the room is where you leave the porch light on at night for guests that may come, be sure to close the shades at supper time to block out the light--yes, this little bit of light will prevent flowering.

To make flowers on your plant, you must have 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. If you walk into the room and turn on the overhead lights you just spoiled all your work and it will not flower. This is what I do to make my poinsettia flower and I don't have to worry about lights in the room. Take an index card or piece of paper and write on it "poinsettia." Now tape it on your refrigerator door near the handle.

At supper time, when you open the refrigerator door to make supper, it will remind you to give the plant darkness. Place the plant in a closet or just cover the plant with a BLACK trash bag or large box to block out the light. When you get the cream out for your coffee in the morning, the note will remind you to take the plant out of darkness and place it near a window for the rest of the day. The plant needs sunlight to grow and it must be near a bright window from breakfast to supper. The better the sunlight during the day the more color the plant will have later!

Now keep the soil moist--but not wet--at all times, or the plant will lose its lower leaves. Always use warm water when you water the plant, never cold. The plant should NEVER sit in a saucer of water or the roots will rot and the plant will die. Fertilize your poinsettia monthly all year for the best foliage color and larger flowers. Use Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed fertilizer or Blooming and Rooting fertilizer. Keep plants away from drafty windows and doors, especially doors that open and close often.

The flowers on the poinsettia are small button-like growths on the tip of the branches that will eventually turn yellow around Christmas. What we all enjoy about the plant is called a flower "BRACT," which a leaf that is able to turn color. This will take about 4 weeks of the short day process before your plant begins to show color on the "leaf stems" near the top of the plant. This is a sign that your work is paying off; when you begin to see a bit of color on the leaves near the top, you can stop the short day process. Now keep the plant in a south facing window all day and as warm as possible 65 to 75 degrees to speed up the coloration of the plant.

As with the Christmas Cactus, say to yourself, "I can do this", it will be fun , it will be a challenge." And just think about the " bragging rights" you will have to tell all your gardening friends and family! Enjoy.
The Statler Brothers: Flowers On The Wall.
The Statler Brothers: 
Flowers On The Wall.

Fall house plant care

Many of us still have houseplants on our deck, patio and even in the garden at this time of the year, and it's time now to begin the process of bringing them inside for the winter or putting them in the basement where it's frost-free and they can enjoy a nice cool winter of dormancy. Follow these simple rules and your plants will acclimate themselves better to the move indoors.

The first thing to remember is that your plants will acclimate to the changes better if they can get into the house before the heat is turned on and the storm windows are put into place. Right now your plants are getting morning dew that they love as it covers the plant and encourages new growth and flower bud production for our winter-flowering plants. Plants love lots of daylight and even direct sun to enjoy, and they want good air movement to keep down possible fungus problems. But the weather is beginning to cool off and that could cause a chilling effect that could damage plants with delicate foliage or those forming buds on the plant.

Here is what you need to do to prepare the plant for the move indoors. Begin by washing the container with a mild bleach, soap and water bath. This will destroy potential insect eggs or fungus spores placed on the container because of the temperature change. If the pot is coming inside and it has a matching saucer, be sure to wash that as well. Now check the foliage and the branches of the plant for possible insects. If you find visible insects, webbing or small hard bumps on the stems or leaves of the plant and if the foliage feels sticky, you have potential problems that must be cared for before the plant comes back into the house. Wash the foliage where you see the problem with a soft cloth that is soaked in a warm water and Dawn dish soap. Dawn is the best foliage cleaner on the market today and with a bit of pressure you can easily remove the hard spots or bumps living on the plant called "scale."

This cleaning will remove the webbing that most likely contains red spider mites--a potential BIG problem if brought inside your home, because they will easily jump onto other plants already in your house. Allow the soapy water mix to set on the foliage for 15 to 30 minutes after you have removed any noticeable problems--and be sure to get the mixture in all the crevices on the stems of the plant and on every leaf and branch. Then spray the soapy mixture off the plant and you're almost ready for the move indoors. One last thing to do--if you found problems or not--let's take no chances this fall of bringing in any stowaways. If you're moving many plants indoors I would do the following.

First treat the soil with a granular insecticide called "Systemic Granules Insect Control" that, when added to the soil, will move inside the plant to protect it from future problems for up to eight weeks (do not use on edible plants). The product is available at most garden centers and produced by Bonide Lawn and Garden. This product will kill aphids, whiteflies, leaf miners, mealy bugs, scale, and mites. Now, if you had a real problem with the plant, I would also spray the plant with an All Season Oil after washing the plant. This is a superior type of paraffinic oil that is safe for all types of plants indoors or outside and smothers insect and eggs on the plant before they have a chance to create a problem.

Now bring the plant indoors and fertilize it with a good houseplant fertilizer like Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed fertilizer or Blooming and Rooting plant fertilizer once it is placed near a window for the winter. During the fall and winter months you should cut back your fertilizing to half the normal amount, as the plants are growing much more slowly, due to the short day length and decrease in the intensity of the sunshine. Watering demand will also decrease during the winter, so what I do is dig into the soil with my finger and feel for moisture. Water houseplants according to their needs--and not because Saturday is your watering day. Large tropical foliage plants will definitely need less water during the winter months, especially if your home is kept cool (60 to 65 degrees) or the weather becomes cloudy and less sunshine is available to the plant. What plants do love during the fall and winter months indoors is misting of the foliage to add humidity around the foliage of the plant, like a greenhouse atmosphere, and that moisture will also help you keep breathing better with higher humidity in your plant room.

Keep plants away from drafty windows and doors that open and close often to prevent chilling the foliage and flowers on the plant. Place plants that require the most amount of sunshine in windows facing south or southwest, while plants that require less light can go to east or north facing windows.

Now, another thing to consider is heat source and types of heat for your plants. Because most plants like moisture in the air (humidity) try to keep plants away from heat sources like wood or pellet stoves, forced hot air vents and don't place them in front of heating registers. Just as an example, ficus and fern plants will drop many leaves if the room is to dry for them, while yucca and palm plants will do real well. Flowering plants like poinsettia, Christmas cactus, gardenias and flowering bulb plants do not like homes with dry heat, and most of the time they will have short flowering periods or drop many or all of their flower buds before the buds have a chance to open. If your home has one these types of heat, keep plants away from heating vents and out of the room where your stove is present. Plants will do better on a window sill, where temperatures are cooler, as long as the window is not drafty. Christmas cactus and gardenias love to be misted with a good squirt of water on the plant and especially on the flower buds as they form to keep them actively productive.

Plants that spend the winter in your cool basement or in your crawl space under the house should go inside with a good watering but no fertilizer. Plants like angel trumpet, dipladenia, mandevilla, and fig trees can do down to the basement in early October--even if they have foliage on them. The foliage will yellow and fall from the plant--and that is OK; the plant is going dormant and will be resting for the winter. Keep the plants on the cold floor and away from heat source like your furnace, the cooler the better but above freezing. If the soil does get real dry during the winter it is OK to add a bit of water to the pot but do not soak the root ball or the plant will wake up and begin to grow with yellow foliage, due to no sunlight in the basement.

Plants like gardenias, Christmas cactus, and florist azaleas need to be kept on the cool side or they will flower early, so keep them in a north facing window with good light but no heat from the day's sunlight coming through your windows. Room temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees are best to keep the flowers on time and extend the flowering time on the plant. Poinsettias like it warm and prefer a sunny window to grow and flower properly. Now is also the time to begin providing the plant with short day conditions to encourage flowering for the holidays. Place a piece of paper on the refrigerator door near the handle and write poinsettia on it. At supper time place the plant in a "DARK" spot in your home like a closet, basement, or unoccupied room where the light cannot get to the plant until morning. When you get out the cream for your morning coffee, move the plant back to the sunny window until supper and treat like your other houseplants as far as watering and feeding. It will take 4 weeks to change the hormones of the plant from vegetative to flowering growth; as soon as you begin to notice red coloration on the upper leaves and stems of the plant, you can stop the process, as the hormones have changed over and your plant will flower all by itself now. Just keep it in a warm, sunny window and watch the daily changes develop on the plant.

Potted herbs should also come in now as well as geraniums and begonias, and be placed in a warm and sunny room. Bulb plants must stay out until the foliage is killed by the frost so they can go dormant. cannas, tuberous begonias, calla lilies, caladium, elephant ears and other non-winter hardy bulbs in your garden NEED the frost before coming in. I will tell you about those plants next week and how to care for them. With the three topics I chose for you this week you will have plenty to do this week and weekend--so get out and enjoy the fall weather!

"Just living is not enough", said the butterfly. One must have freedom, sunshine and a little flower"

Hans Christian Anderson


Bobby Darin and Marty Robbins '18 Yellow Roses.'
Bobby Darin and Marty Robbins '18 Yellow Roses.'


Sweet Fern with fragrant foliage

Sweetfern is a deciduous shrub with many stiff upright growing branches. The new growth will range from pale green to yellowish green in color; as the growth matures, it will turn to reddish brown. These stems will have small spots on them and, with age, become a bit hairy. In the fall of the year these stems will turn reddish purple to a copper color and have a bit of sheen on them. As the plant spreads across the soil it will have a very flat and even look to it. It does grow in a mound but always has a flat and even looking appearance to it. Even in the spring after a winter with a lot of snow on the plants, it does rebound and grow upright again.

The leaves are fern-like looking and grow 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches long and less than an inch wide. The leaf is a bit hairy, coarse, and thick, unlike most fern plants. The plant will grow very thick and full, often completely covering the ground with its foliage. The leaf is simple looking and alternates up the stem from the ground to the tip of the branches. When young they have sheen to them and are deep green in color but the best part is that they are fragrant when new and right up to the time they fall from the plant in the fall season. Just brush by the plant and smell the wonderful potpourri fragrance it produces, or, better still, crush a few leaves with your hands, then smell them--just magnificent.

In early May, it will make a flower that is not showy and often not seen on the plant. The seeds come from a seed pod that resembles a burr-like pod on the plant. In the late summer, the pods will dry up and the seeds will be thrown free to start new plants. The plant will make 4 seeds per pod or fruit.

The plant is very strong and seldom has problems with insects and disease. If the summer is very dry and hot, you will notice a bit of reddish spotting on the foliage but the plant will still look good. This is a perfect plant for recreational areas like cottages or camps where you want to spend time relaxing, not maintaining plants around your home.

What makes this plant so special in the wild is its ability to make its own nitrogen fertilizer. This plant can take the nitrogen gas from the air and use it to grow. The sweetfern plant can do this because of its ability to partner with a fungus in the soil that will make nodules on the roots of the plant. The plant will use the nitrogen and the fungus will benefit from the nutrients and water collected by the plant's roots. Because of this unique ability, the plant is able to grow in a dry infertile soil where almost any other plant dies.

The plant does not transplant very well, especially when it is covered with foliage in the spring to fall of the year. So mark small plants now with a brightly colored ribbon and dig them with a large root ball in the early spring, before the foliage develops. Make a nice hole and fill with soil that has been conditioned with compost, animal manure or good top soil when planting. I also recommend that you use Soil Moist Granules to help keep the newly transplanted seedling moist until it can get established. Water weekly until the foliage is fully developed on the plant and occasionally during the first summer. No fertilizer is needed, as it makes its own when it needs it.

When you plant sweetfern in these pockets of soil, space the plants 3 to 4 feet apart or closer if you want the plants to cover of the area faster. If you want the plants to thrive, use 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch, pine needles, wood chips or even spoiled hay or stray from your garden to encourage fast root development. This mulch will also help hold the soil in place for the first couple of years while the roots are getting established.

Plants can be purchased from your local nursery or from an organization that deals with soil erosion, soil conservation, or native plant specialty growers. Most nurseries do not stock this plant but they can get plants for you. Plants can be found growing where wild blueberries grow, on the edges of a wooded area, where trees have been harvested for lumber, and even on the sand dunes of Cape Cod. The more acid the soil is, the more you will find these plants growing in those areas. One last idea to look for the plants is where poison ivy is growing, as they love the same type of growing conditions.

Sweetfern stems are often used to make the very popular twig wreaths available at most garden centers. Smell the twigs, as they are also fragrant and will stay fragrant for several months inside your home. This is a wonderful plant for difficult growing areas--enjoy.

New Brunswick Clam Pie

Summertime is peak digging time for steamed clams along the Atlantic coast on those muddy clam flats. I am very fortunate as I can dig steamers year round even on those cold snowy days of winter and they taste even better during the winter. Nothing is better tasting than fresh steamers eaten from a cup of drawn butter. Here is a recipe you should try when you have extra clams and you're looking for a new way to cook them, you will not be sorry. Enjoy

2 pounds of fresh dug steamers
2 pie crust from scratch or Pillsbury in the refrigerator case
pound of sliced bacon
5 medium potatoes
2 medium onions
1 teaspoon of regular salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
2 cups of clam juice liquid and water if you're short of juice

1} Preheat your oven to 325 degrees

2} Grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan

3} wash your steamers well in cold water and Shock your raw steamers in a large bowl to catch all the liquid and dispose of the shells

4} Pan Fry clams in a bit of butter until tender

5} slice your bacon strips into thin slices and fry in a small sauce pan, save the fat and put aside
6} Peal and thinly slice your potatoes

7} Place the first crust in your greased baking dish

7} Arrange half of your potato slice in you baking dish with half of the thinly sliced onions

8} Arrange half of the clams on top and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt teaspoon of pepper

9} Repeat with the remaining potatoes, onions, and clams. Season again and sprinkle with the bacon pieces and the fat

10} pour the 2 cups of clam juice and water if did not have enough juice

11} Bake in your 325 degree oven for one hour

12} Remove from the oven and cover the clam pie with the top crust, making several holes to allow steam to escape

13} Return to a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the top crust has a rich golden brown color

14} This should serve 4 to 6 people and if you have any leftover it reheats well.

15} Your clam shells should be placed in a plastic bag and smashed with a hammer until the pieces are to in in diameter and spread in your garden to add Calcium and Magnesium to your soil. All shell fish such as Lobster, crab, mussels, oysters and all types of clams will help to prevent Blossom end rot on tomatoes and squash and help with bacteria action in your soil.
 Also found in shellfish shells is an element called Chitin that helps bacteria action in your soil. Shell fish shells can be scattered around your Hosta to control slugs and add them to your soil when planting spring flowering bulbs this fall to prevent rodent damage. Enjoy Paul

The Paul Parent Garden Club, next trip is to Cuba

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Garden Journal

        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
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