Gardening Short Shots

Clematis ‘Barbara Harrington’

Over the years of dealing with the gardening public, I realized that we often throw around terms and names that could be a bit misleading. Eventually, I jotted some of these tricky terms down and came up with the following:

The mountain ash tree (Sorbus) may come from the mountains but it is not really an ash tree (Fraxinus). It is actually a member of the Rose Family and is a close relative to apples, pears and roses. Mountain ash trees are not bothered by the Emerald ash borer either although, since mountain ash have their own serious disease and insect problems, that might not be a bad thing.

Boxelder tree seedlings are often mistaken for poison ivy when they first emerge from the seeds. They have the same three leaf structure but they soon form a tree-like stem and not a vine like poison ivy.

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Tree Roots

We have all heard the old saying, “Let’s get to the root of the problem.” As a horticulturist, that simple phrase takes on a very deep meaning (no pun intended). Many of the plant problems I deal with every day have their origins at least partially in the root system. When it comes to older trees, root problems become a huge factor.

When a tree is under stress, most people notice the above the ground symptoms first and blame them on insects or diseases. It is easy to see wilting leaves, dying branches and loss of vigor. However when a large, established tree begins to slowly die over several years, the cause may lie hidden in the ground. The symptoms may arise from a much misunderstood area called the root zone.

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Poison Ivy

PGC-V-Toxicodendron-radicans-aka-Poison-Ivy-4-2Anyone who has ever experienced the blisters, swelling, and extreme itching from an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy, learns quickly to avoid it whenever possible. It grows in non-cultivated sites, such as along stream banks, roadways, fence rows, and woodlands. The nasty weed can even make an appearance in your ornamental shrub or perennial borders especially in hosta or other woodland based areas. Therefore, knowing how to identify and control poison ivy are the best defenses against accidental contact and nights of itching and scratching.

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Grateful-Dead-patchNote: If you stumbled onto this page because you are a fan of The Grateful Dead and are, therefore, a Deadhead, you probably need to move on.

When flowers begin to drop their petals, it is a signal that the plant is ready to set seed and, generally, to stop producing blooms. In nature, that is just fine since the primary goal of the plant is to produce seed to guarantee another generation and continuation of the species. However, in our gardens, we just want the plants to persist in producing flowers for as long as possible.

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“Feeding” Plants

It is common for people to say that they are going to “feed their plants” with fertilizers. As with many aspects of our relationship with the plant world, we often find ourselves thinking that plants live and grow the same way animals do. We need to remember that plants do things very differently.

Cow-blog-21Fertilizing a plant is not the same as feeding a pig or a cat or ourselves. Animals take in carbohydrates, proteins and sugars and during digestion, break them back down into their component parts. The body then uses these elements to build muscle, organs and other tissues. The energy that is released in this process came originally from the sun…through plants. Remember that the steak you are eating came from a cow that ate plants. That fish may have been a predator that ate other fish but somewhere down the food chain, it began with something that was a vegetarian.

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Fun Gardening Calls

Coreopsis tripteris - Tickseed

Coreopsis tripteris

Welcome to the blog from PlantsGalore.Com. My name is Ralph Heiden and I am a retired Extension Horticulture Educator from the Midwest. Over 30 years as a professional horticulturist, I have gained a lot of education and experience…some of it quite interesting. In this blog and with my website, I hope to continue to share what I have learned with my fellow backyard gardeners.

Although I was once forced to be a “generalist” covering all aspects of horticulture, my retirement gives me the freedom to concentrate on my main love, ornamental horticulture. So, you won’t hear much about fruit and vegetables or greenhouses on these pages. My energy will be focused on ornamental trees, shrubs, annuals, biennials, perennials and vines that are used in the home landscape. I have developed a special interest and “expertise” in hostas since I have gardened in the shade for several decades. That is why I have created a website called HostaHelper.Com where I currently have photos and information on over 2,400 different hostas.

Anyway, to kick off this new blog, here are a few anecdotes about some of the interesting experiences I encountered while answering a couple thousand telephone calls each year during my tenure as Horticulture Educator.

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