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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Soil Test Now

Now is a good time to have the soil from gardens, lawns, flowerbeds or fields tested if you haven’t already done so. A standard soil test will tell you the level of major nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium, the pH, soil type, and the nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Based on these levels, a computer-generated recommendation will tell you how much fertilizer is needed to grow a good crop of vegetables, grass, trees, shrubs or flowers.

Remember that, except in very rare circumstances, the level of nitrogen in the soil will not be tested. Nitrogen is very water soluble and moves through the soil quickly. Therefore, to test it today would give results that would probably be different tomorrow. So, the ultimate recommendations will be based on the typical needs of the crops being grown and not on the amount existing in the soil.

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Hostas and Light

Hostas are often called “shade loving” plants. For the average gardening public, this helps Hosta-shade-lovingthem to understand that these plants are adapted to growing in the shade. However, for more advanced hobbyists or professionals, this is a misnomer.

All vascular plants live by a process called photosynthesis. They capture the energy from the sun and, unlike animals, they make their own food. For photosynthesis to work, a plant must have five things including light, water, nutrients from the soil and the air, chlorophyll and suitable temperature. The minimum levels of each of these factors required may vary from species to species but they all must be present in certain amounts for photosynthesis to take place in that plant.

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From the Pest’s Perspective

Disease-11-0001-EditWe tend to look at moles, grubs, deer, fungal diseases and other pests from the standpoint of their impact on us and our plants. It is as if their only goal in life is to ruin our garden and they seem to do this on purpose. What do they have against us? We’ve never done anything to deserve this treatment.

From their perspective, they could not care less about us. Their goals are rather simple. They want food, water, protection from predators and a place to reproduce their own kind. If these requirements are met, they do not care whether it is in the woods or in your backyard. It makes no difference to them.

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Long Tall Perennials

Design criteria such as plant form, texture and height are important considerations for any landscape. The ideal situation is to have a nice balance of such traits so the garden does not become monotonous. Too often, perennial gardens are dominated by rounded or mounded forms and daisy-like flowers. Here are a few tall, upright perennials that will provide contrast and variation in form, texture and height to the other plants in a bed or border.


Delphinium – This majestic beauty is most associated with the magnificent gardens of England or the Pacific Northwest. They will grow in more temperate areas too but they may require a little extra care. Plant them in a site protected from the wind for best results. They emerge early in the spring, so be prepared to cover them if frost threatens. During the growing season, the very tall types such as the Pacific Giant hybrids may need staking and a shot of extra fertilizer if their leaves begin to turn yellow during the growing season. Finally, individual plants tend to be short lived and may need to be replaced after four or five years. Continue reading

Vines are Fine

Black Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)

Vines are great additions to the home landscape. The majority of the ones we commonly use fall into the category of woody perennials. They form woody stems and persist from year to year. A handful of vines such as black eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) or hyacinth bean vine (Dolicus loblob) are annuals and give a good display in a single season of growth.

I love the way vines can raise the level of the garden up into the air. By growing up a trellis or fence, they stand above the typical perennials and some of the smaller shrubs. This helps to expand the area in which we can display beautiful flowers and foliage. They can fill that space between the top of the taller perennials and the lowest branches of the trees. Vines can also soften the visual impact of brick on a building.

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Plant Bugs

PGC-I-Four-Lined-Plantbug-04-EditWhat are those tiny black circular spots that mysteriously appear on the surface of leaves of mums (Chrysanthemum), mints (Mentha), Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum), speedwell (Veronica) , black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and many other plants? Is the damage due to disease or insect or something else? Odds are that they are the work of a critter called plant bug.

Although we often use the term “bug” as being synonymous with insect, “plant bugs” are a specific subdivision of the insect world. They are insects of the Order Hemiptera whose mouthparts are adapted for piercing plants and sucking their juices. Several of them are common pests in the home landscape.

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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.

More…Fun Gardening Calls

Origin of Hosta Species

So far, all 43 hosta species have been found to be native to parts of Asia only. The largest number come from the various islands of Japan while smaller numbers of species originated in Korea and China. Several European plant explorers “discovered” hostas and started to bring them back to be introduced into Europe.

Native Region for Hosta Species

Native Region for Hosta Species

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