Blog of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society! The MSHS is one of the largest member supported horticultural societies in the United States. Since 1866, MSHS have served the gardening community through programs for individuals of all ages. It is the mission of MSHS to serve Northern gardeners through education, encouragement, and community.
Teaming up with Mankato Area Public Schools and Blue Earth County State Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), the Minnesota River Valley Master Gardeners helped the staff and youth participants in the district’s after-school childcare program plant 4-by-12-foot raised bed vegetable gardens last summer. The program serves children kindergarten to fifth grade before and after school and on non-school days, including over the summer. Gardens were planted at six schools: Kennedy, Eagle Lake, Franklin, Rosa Parks, Roosevelt and Hoover; and a Master Gardener taught a basic gardening class to the program supervisors and assisted each group all summer.
Students enjoyed harvesting vegetables from their garden plot in Mankato.
Interested students had an opportunity to participate in a garden club, learning about vegetable gardening, weeding, watering and harvesting from the Master Gardeners. “The kids loved watering; having a hose out there was an attraction,” says Diane DeWitte, the Master Gardener coordinator for the six school locations. Using lesson plans created by Blue Earth County SHIP, program supervisors taught students about plants, cultivation, irrigation, photosynthesis, food and nutrition.
“By the end of the season, more kids had gravitated to the gardens than we had started with,” says Diane. Out of the peppers, tomatoes, beans, spinach, broccoli, potatoes and watermelon planted, the tomatoes were the biggest hit. “I was not expecting that they’d like the tomatoes so much—and they even enjoyed eating broccoli!” It was a great experience for all involved, and the Master Gardeners hope to continue working with the summer program next year.
If you have ever been in Scandinavia at the end of June, you know how much they enjoy the long, summery days of “midsommar.” Picnics, family trips to the cabin, strolling through gardens and enjoying good food and drink are part of the annual celebration. This year, MSHS is sponsoring its own version of midsommar in conjunction with several wonderful garden centers just outside of the Twin Cities.
Held Saturday, June 24, this event features a self-guided tour of distinctive garden stores in the lovely St. Croix/Stillwater/Scandia area. Each of these stores features a variety of unique plant material, yard art, artisan products and other garden treasures.
Secluded garden centers with unusual plants and decor are on the midsummer tour.
You can peruse the garden centers at your leisure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Then, join us for a 90-minute private tasting and tour of Saint Croix Vineyards. Tours and tastings start at either 2:30 or 4 p.m. (Sign up for a specific time when you register.) Savor a glass of wine, take a walking tour of the winery and the vineyard, learn about growing grapes in Minnesota and the steps involved in making wine. Plus enjoy a wine tasting in the private tasting room with platters of cheese and crackers and a small dessert. What a great way to mark the longest days of the year and to end your day’s garden adventures!
After you register for the event, you’ll be given special passes as well as site locations and a suggested driving route. Get your MSHS pass stamped at each location for drawings and door prizes. There will be special demonstrations at select locations.
Cost for the event is $25. Please register by June 20.
This book review originally appeared in the May/June issue of Northern Gardener magazine.
Don’t reach for Planting in a Post-Wild World if you’re looking for reassuring recommendations for what to plant later this spring. Despite its lush color photos, relaxed layout and elegant styling, these people are calling for revolution—one that is bound to be controversial with many gardeners and conservationists.
Authors Thomas Rainer and Claudia West want us to accept that, just as we could not preserve our wilderness, we cannot re-create it. “We must put aside our romantic notions of pristine wilderness and embrace a new nature that is largely designed and managed by us,” they say.
They propose to invoke the feeling of wildness within our gardens by planting in vertical and sequential layers, so that there is never bare ground. Their four vertical layers are tall plants, mid-level plants that are seasonal star bloomers, filler plants that grow and bloom quickly, and lots (50 percent of the space) of groundcovers. They aren’t too picky about where a plant comes from and urge gardeners to focus on naturally occurring plant communities rather than purely native plants. .
They also encourage us to evaluate our site, accept it with minimal soil amendments and irrigation, choose plants that may thrive there and get them established. Then, step back, monitor and adjust as needed. “Instead, embrace a more limited palette of plants that will tolerate and thrive in these conditions,” they say.
The book includes three real-life examples of private gardens that incorporate the principles of plant community gardening.
Rainer is a landscape architect based in Virginia whose work includes the U.S. Capitol grounds, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the New York Botanical Garden. West is a landscape designer and writer.
This weekend is the traditional start of plant sale season in Minnesota and there are dozens of them being held around the state. Check the special listings in the May/June issue of Northern Gardener magazine or the website at the Minnesota State Horticulture Society for sales near you.
Plant sales are typically sponsored by garden clubs, Master Gardener groups or organizations that hold them as a fundraiser, such as the massive Friends School Plant Sale, which will be held this weekend at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Many sales include plants dug from the gardens of experienced gardeners or started indoors by gardeners who enjoy starting seeds. Plant sales are a terrific way to add to your garden and save money at the same time. Plus, they are just plain fun!
Here are a five tips for making the most of your local plant sale.
Ask questions. The people sponsoring the sale are usually very experienced gardeners and they love to share their knowledge. When you are choosing plants be sure to ask about the sun/shade requirements of the plant, as well as bloom time and watering needs. Don’t be afraid to ask if the plant is an aggressive spreader, if you don’t have a lot of room.
Bring cash or check. While some large sales will offer the option to pay with a credit or debit card, many do not. Be ready with cash or a checkbook to purchase your finds.
Prepare to haul your plants. People have been known to go crazy at plant sales, so be prepared to take home lots of plants. A tarp in your trunk or the back of your vehicle will keep things neat when you haul your plants home. Also don’t forget to give your purchases a good watering when you get home and try to get them in the ground or a container as soon as possible.
Get there early. If you have something specific in mind—a type of lily, a special hosta—get to the sale early. Because the plants are usually donated, numbers may be limited.
Come back late. If you have a lot of space to fill and a limited budget, consider coming toward the end of the sale. Selection will be smaller, but the planners usually do not want to haul their plants back home. Start haggling — you may get a great deal at the plant sale.
Popular plants may sell out early. If you want something specific, get to the sale early.
Finally, if you don’t find what you are looking for, do not despair. Our local nurseries and garden centers are filled to the brim now with pretty annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. If you are an MSHS member, your discount card will make garden center shopping a bargain, too.
Using muted colors (except for those stunning lavender roses), the MSHS arrangement reflects the melancholy feeling of “Rouen Cathedral, Sunrise.” It’s the 13th year MSHS has participated in Art in Bloom.
Sponsored by the Friends of the Institute for 34 years, Art in Bloom is an annual event in the Twin Cities. This year, 165 florists and artists interpreted works of art from the museum’s collections in flowers. The event is free and open to the public, and judging by the crowds on Thursday afternoon, it is much beloved and popular. The interpretations are fascinating to see. Some are literal, repeating colors, shapes and spatial relationships from the painting or sculpture. Others are minimalist—a vase and a few flowers to reflect the art work. The floral arrangements seem to interact with the paintings and sculptures in unique ways.
Below are photos of a few of the floral arrangements.
This interpretation by first-year participant Daniel Dobrow of “Three Women,” by Ferdinand Leger absolutely captures the painting using only a few flowers.
This arrangement in response to “The Journey of the Magi,” by James Tissot was created by Jessica Leopold of Koehler & Dramm. Can you pick out the three kings?
It seemed to me that the religious art was more of a challenge to interpret in flowers than some of the secular works. But Terry Carter, a 17-year-participant in the show, captured Benedetto di Bindo Zoppo’s portrait of St. Lucy with just a few gladioli.
It’s that time of the year, when gardeners are prowling nurseries and garden centers looking for annuals, perennials, vegetable starts and those special pieces of art or decoration for their garden. If you are an MSHS member, be sure to check out the list of MSHS Discount Partners on our website. (The list also appears at the top of this blog and was included on a cover wrap around the March/April 2017 issue of Northern Gardener.
MSHS really appreciates the support of all of our discount partners. The discount is a wonderful benefit for all MSHS members. To get the discount, just show your MSHS card at check out. We recommend you take a photo of the card with your cell phone and that way, you will always have your card with you. We hope you have a wonderful spring and find all the plants you need!
The Minnesota Green program has had a big impact on the Sherburne County Master Gardeners’ community gardening projects, and they’ve only participated in the program for one year. “Before Minnesota Green, I was spending money out of my own pocket to get plants for our kids’ gardening programs. I was happy to do it, but it got expensive,” says Liz Lewis, who has been a master gardener since 2014 and owns the business Garden of Eden in Otsego. She’s started five kids’ gardening programs in the county. “Liz is so enthusiastic,” says Judy Thorson, Liz’s fellow master gardener. “The kids love her, and so do the parents—they ask her gardening questions too.”
Children help with planting at one of the Sherburne County Master Gardener gardens.
“For the kids’ programs, we teach from the soil up,” says Liz, “but we mainly do vegetable gardening because harvesting vegetables is a fun experience. We’ve made things like salsa, and I made some zucchini bread and brought it in for them to try.” They talk about pollinators and other insects (the butterfly garden at the library comes in handy for this topic), garden design and location, how different plants grow, weeds, trees and more. They planted sunflower seeds so the kids could see how different plants can grow very large, and they’ve done games with prizes for kids who answer gardening questions correctly.
While some of the produce grown by the kids is used for the programs, they also donate to the local food shelf—over 300 pounds of food was donated in 2016—which teaches kids about sharing and generosity.
Master Gardeners load up on plants from Minnesota Green for the Sherburne County projects.
The kids are excited to show what they’ve learned; for a program at the library, the master gardeners bought supplies for a terrarium class, and one of the kids taught it. “It was so cute watching the little boy teach the class; he was so excited and really knew what he was doing,” says Liz.
“Inspiring new generations to want to garden—helping kids see a different perspective of the world outside of TV and video games—has been the most rewarding part of being a master gardener,” says Liz. “Plus, it’s great to hear kids teach their parents about something like weeds—they really retain a lot of information and are always excited to share their knowledge.” Perhaps there should be a new proverb in the gardening community: teach a kid to garden, and they’ll teach their parents.
Lettuce and other greens, such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard, are among the vegetables that grow well starting in early spring. Growing greens is easy and this weekend, with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s, would be perfect for planting greens.
Start some lettuces indoors to put out as seedlings.
Greens don’t like weather that is too hot and most garden references say to plant seeds “as soon as the soil can be worked.” Since we can get a hard freeze well into May, I like to start some greens indoors under lights, then transplant them when the soil has warmed up just a bit. If a really cold night hits, you may want to top the transplants with a row cover, sheet or a cloche to keep them from getting nipped. Direct sow seeds of greens at the same time as you put out your transplants and every week or two until early June for continuous crops throughout the early part of the summer. Plant seeds again starting in August and you can be growing greens from April through October.
Seeds of lettuce and other greens are small and only need to be 1/4-inch below the surface of the soil when planted. Sow seeds thickly and give seedlings more room by harvesting some of the seedlings small. These baby greens are delicious in salads. Keep the beds well-watered.
Greens like sun, though some do fine in partial shade, especially as the summer gets hotter. Head lettuces, like romaine and Boston lettuce, are fun to grow and can be ornamental in the garden. But for a big, continuous harvest, the leaf lettuces are perfect. These are also called “cut and come again” lettuces because you can harvest what you need and the lettuces will continue to grow.
Chard can be a striking ornamental plant that looks majestic near summer annuals.
Spinach and leaf lettuce are fairly quick to harvest—30 to 45 days for spinach. Kale, collards and Swiss chard need more time—70 to 80 days or more from seed—to reach maturity, but they are slower to bolt (send up seed stalks) than the lettuces.
Plant a selection of greens for delicious harvests through the summer.
Magnolias are blooming in many parts of Minnesota now. Their pink and white blooms look like cotton candy on trees.
It was a brisk, sunny morning yesterday, so I took a walk around the neighborhood to see what’s blooming. For mid-April, quite a bit! Forsythia bushes looked pretty in several yards, as did magnolias and many of the deciduous shrub hedges had popped their leaves over the weekend when much-needed rain fell. We’re going from brown to green as the dominant shade in yards in the North.
Scilla (also called Siberian squill) naturalizes in lawns easily and blooms early.
Elsewhere, the early PJM Rhododendrons were in bloom and a few gardeners had pansies in containers to welcome spring time. I also spotted the first dandelion bloom that I’ve seen this year. Don’t pick the dandelions too quickly, though. They are an important early source of nectar for bees.
PJM Rhododendrons are among the earliest shrubs to bloom in Minnesota.
The Spring Garden Gala is one of the largest fundraising events of the year for MSHS, with more than 250 people attending the event at the Envision Event Center in Oakdale April 1. Favorite events from past galas were back, including the Wall of Wine, the plant auction at the end of the evening, the silent auction, with dozens of baskets and garden decor. Elizabeth Reis, host of Twin Cities Live (and a gardener and garden blogger) handled the emcee duties.
Floral sponsors donated centerpieces, silent auction items and plants.