Connecticut Garden Journal | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Connecticut Garden Journal

Even though red still dominates the poinsettia market, new varieties are coming out.
Debbie R (Flickr) / Creative Commons

In 1828, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, could never have imagined the impact he'd have on the holidays by simply bringing back a local plant to the United States.

Terrarium
J E Koonce (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Holiday gift shopping is in full gear. It's always a challenge getting the right gift for gardening friends and family. Some gardening items, such as gloves and hand tools, are very personal. I usually avoid giving those. But here are a few items I think any gardener will appreciate.

Growers have figured out a way to get an amaryllis bulb to grow without soil, water or fertilizer.
Gerard Stolk (Flickr) / Creative Commons

As December approaches, it’s time to think about gift giving. One of the flowers of the season is the amaryllis. This bulb is a beautiful holiday symbol adding color and brightness during these dark, short days.

Tamarack tree
Cindy Zackowitz (Flickr) / Creative Commons

November isn't known for colorful fall leaves in Connecticut, but there's one tree that always impresses me as it's the last to drop its foliage. The larch or tamarack tree is unusual. It has needles like a pine, but it's deciduous and drop its needles in winter. The late fall golden color is striking especially since is occurs after all the other deciduous leaves have fallen.

Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr) / Creative Commons

November is for wrapping up the garden and protecting plants from winter. One plant that often needs protection are roses.

What begonias make sense to bring indoors?
Raul P (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This common flower originated in Central and South America and is named after a famous botanist Michel Begon. Gardeners love the wide variety of flower and leaf shapes, colors and sizes and its tolerance of shade. This plant is called the begonia.

A thin layer of leaves on your lawn can help the soil and grass.
Aarthi Ramamurthy (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is great for shuffling through layers of dried, fallen leaves. I love the smell, sound and feeling of the leaves underfoot. But leaves are also a great resource for your garden, lawn and yard. So, let's look at five ways to use those leaves in the garden.

Chris J (Flickr) / Creative Commons

It's getting closer to the big day. Halloween rivals Christmas for the amount of money spent on decorating, costumes and parties. However, with all the things you can buy for Halloween decorations, the pumpkin is still at the center of all the action.

Japanese barberry.
Calin Darabus (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is a great time to watch birds enjoy the various wild berries, as they get ready for winter and migration. However, some of the plants the birds enjoy are not good characters. There are a number of invasive shrubs that are spread by birds eating the berries and then pooping out the seeds. These shrubs can take over habitats, crowd out natives and make the environment less hospitable for wildlife.

Leonora (Ellie) Enking (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is in full swing. The perennial flower gardens are taking on the colors of autumn with colorful berries, foliage and flowers. While we all know about goldenrod, asters and chrysanthemums as traditional fall flowers, there are other perennial flowers, hardy in our area, that can increase the fall color range and interest.

A new cognitive garden at UConn's Avery Point campus.
Annette Montoya

When I was a young boy growing up near my Italian grandfather's farm in Waterbury, every day my cousins, and neighborhood friends, would spend hours in the farm fields and forest playing. We'd make up games, go on adventures, or simply lie in the field and dream. Little did I know that we were creating better cognitive functioning for our brains.

Sunflower.
metin.gul (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Sunflowers are gorgeous this time of year. New varieties feature colors such as gold, white, burgundy and bronze. While most sunflowers grow tall, some new varieties are short and bushy. Sunbelieveable fits well in containers with its bushy growth and produces hundreds of small, yellow flowers all summer.

Chrysanthemums.
Dave Crosby (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Fall is for mums. Chrysanthemums adorn front porches, window boxes and containers from September until frost, providing beauty and color that compliments our fall foliage. But this traditional fall plant can be more than a short-lived decoration.

Amaranth.
Kristine Paulus (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Some late blooming annual flowers are really shining this time of year. One of my favorites is amaranth. If that name sounds familiar, you're probably munching on it in the morning, as the grain is a popular breakfast cereal.

Pears.
Forest Starr and Kim Starr (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Pears are great backyard fruits. New Englanders have been growing pear trees since the 1600s. While the commercial industry has shifted to Washington and Oregon because of better growing conditions and fewer disease problems, pears still make great backyard fruits.

Sneeze weed.
Virginia State Parks (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Some plants have unfortunate common names. Take sneezeweed for example. Sneezeweed, or helenium, is a native perennial that's blooming now with colorful flowers on 3 to 5 foot tall plants. It's great to grow in your garden because it flowers as the summer perennials, such as bee balm, are finishing but before the fall perennials, such as sedum and asters, begin.

A garden after the first freeze.
woodleywonderworks (Flickr) / Creative Commons

I've been rereading an old classic, 1973 gardening book by a former Redding, Connecticut resident Ruth Stout. In her book, No Work Gardening, she touts using deep layers of organic mulches as the solution to pretty much everything in the garden. She uses deep mulching for weed control, fertility management, and pest control and got huge yields with little work. Ruth passed many years ago, but her book got me thinking about simplifying my garden work.

Tomato hornworm.
Christine Kalina (Flickr) / Creative Commons

I remember my first encounter with the tomato hornworm. I came back after being away from my garden for a few days and noticed the tops of my plants were all munched. I naturally blamed the deer, but after further inspection I came face to face with this 4-inch long, green monster. It was happily munching away on the leaves. I swear I could hear it chew.

Chokeberry.
Dave Lage (Flickr) / Creative Commons

If you have a wet area, a pond or stream or live near Long Island Sound, finding an attractive shrub that grows well in wet conditions can be difficult. Luckily, there are some easy to grow shrubs -- beyond winterberry and shrub dogwoods -- that can take wet and, even salty soils, and thrive in your yard.

Wikimedia Commons

 

If you've ever grown broccoli, cabbage, kale, or cauliflower you know this insect. We've all experienced this. You're happily washing your head of broccoli or kale leaves when you come across a green caterpillar. Worse yet, if you miss them you end up having a little protein in your veggie dish.

Amy the Nurse / FLICKR

Sometimes flowers take a while to catch on. Consider the zinnia. This popular annual flower was first discovered in its native Mexico by the Spanish. They thought it was so unattractive they called it “mal de ojos” or sickness of the eyes. Not a great beginning for a flower. But after years of breeding, the zinnia has been transformed into one of my favorite summer bloomers.

Unripe mulberries.
Emma Doughty (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush. Here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning. We all know this English nursery rhyme, but ironically, the mulberry bush or tree is native to China, not England.

Malabar spinach
Artizone (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Gardeners love the idea of being independent of the seasons to grow crops whenever we like. For example, I love greens and would love to grow spinach, arugula and lettuce all summer, but I know the heat will cause them to bolt and get bitter. However, there are greens that can tolerate the heat and shine all summer.

Chickweed is one of the annual weeds that you can prevent.
Paige Filler (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Ben Franklin once said, “A man of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds.” Yes, with all the rain, annual weeds are having a hay day!

Okra
Rebecca Wilson (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Now that the weather was finally gotten warmer, it's time to grow heat-loving vegetables. This vegetable hails from Africa, was grow by ancient Egyptians, and was brought to this country by slaves. It's related to hibiscus, cotton, and mallow plants. Can you guess the name? It's okra.

Catmint
Jim, the Photographer (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Nepeta, or catmint, is a tough, long blooming perennial that bees and butterflies love. Of course, one of its members, catnip, is a particular favorite of cats. Unfortunately, catnip isn't the most attractive plant, but kitties love to roll, munch and sleep on the plant.

Summer squash
Seacoast Eat Local (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This vegetable was grown by the Wampanoag Native Americans in New England, but it originated in South America 12,000 years ago. Squash is an integral part of most gardens and there are many different types to grow. I particularly like summer squash.

Lettuce
Emma Cooper (Flickr) / Creative Commons

I've got a riddle for you? What vegetable was eaten by Persian kings, was once considered a weed and is second only to potatoes in consumption in this country? The answer is lettuce.

Mulch may be plentiful, but there are other options.
F. D. Richards (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This time of year, bark mulch is being thrown around like candy at a 4th of July parade. We've grown very accustomed to, and even expect, mulched gardens. The ideal is a weed free, mulched garden.

Sunflower
metin.gul (Flickr) / Creative Commons

One the quintessential flowers of summer is the sunflower. The common sunflower was originally grown in the Southwest 5,000 years ago. Native Americans used the seed for food, dyes, medicine, and oil. Though the Europeans started growing sunflowers in the 1500s, it was mostly as an ornamental. It wasn’t until Peter the Great of Russia started growing it on the large scale for oil production that sunflowers started booming as a popular crop.

Pages