Tag Archives: rick

Be a Smarty Plants

Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what their word of advice would be for someone new to gardening and just starting out. Many offered some well rooted advice to mulch or water or be open to change. Having a vision, a good foundation of organic soil and to start small were other popular words of well grounded wisdom. One of my Facebook friends suggested that frozen berries in wine was a good pain reliever. Another suggested buying Motrin along with a lot of plants. Those who had thrown in the “trowel” suggested the new gardener give up before their backs and hips, have a drink and hire someone to do it for them. I liked the fact some felt variety was important and that gardening is good therapy.
In the spirit of turnabout is fair play, I asked myself the question. If left with suggesting one thing, I would recommend that a “smarty plants” invests time in their garden in September and October. Along with great deals on plants, the fall climate is perfect for plant establishment. In fall the soil cools down after a hot summer but is still warm and rainfall is more plentiful. Plants put in the ground focus on root establishment instead of top growth. Plants put in the ground in fall are well rooted and take off quicker in spring. This applies to woody landscape plants, trees, perennials, bulbs and even annuals like pansies. Frost tolerant pansies provide color in fall and then overwinter under the snow to outperform spring planted pansies the following spring.

These Pansies are waking up in spring after their winter nap. We're beautiful in the fall and now doing it again!

These Pansies are waking up in spring after their winter nap. We’re beautiful in the fall and now doing it again!

The weather in fall is enjoyable for yard work, even mundane work such as the lawn. Feeding your lawn in fall is important to develop a thick well rooted lawn. Grass seed grows well in the fall for patching or starting a new lawn, September is arguably the best month of the year to start a lawn in Michigan. And when it comes to weeds, well “weed” need to talk. Perennial weeds send their food reserves to the roots in fall just like the trees. If you apply weed killer you’re getting good translocation of the herbicide into the roots instead of just top kill. Also many annual weeds like Henbit germinate in the fall to become rampant and blooming in the spring. Fall applications of weed control keep these weeds from becoming a problem in spring.
If you “plant”-asize about gorgeous flowers in spring, September is the perfect month to plant flowering bulbs. It can be as easy as dig, drop, done. Bulb selections go way beyond tulips with many of the “minor bulbs” like Scilla, Fritillaria and Alliums or Dutch Iris to name a few. Planted in a well drained soil these miracle orbs will pop up and surprise you next spring.

These fall planted Pansies are reblooming in spring with the Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time.

These fall planted Pansies are reblooming in spring with the Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time.

September planted Mums provide brilliant fall color. Mum-Ma-Mia! Hardy Mums and Asters can be displayed in pots for fall color and then if planted in the ground before winter with a light mulch covering should come back next year.
Be a “smarty plants” and make a date with your yard and garden this September.


I’m Only Humid

A gardener’s zest for yard work can wilt in August. We’re only “humid” and I understand. Yet in August some of the best entertaining days in the garden are for us to enjoy. From Rudbeckia to Sedums to Buddleia the landscape continues to entertain. With a little TLC and the willingness to wet our “plants” the landscape can reward our senses like an ornamental grass and its wispy dance in the warm summer breezes.

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

I love the month of August and it’s the gateway to some of the best gardening months of the year. This is no time to throw in the “trowel” on the yard and garden. Besides, now is the time we are rewarded with the fruits of our labors harvesting the tomatoes and peppers we lovingly planted months ago.
August is a great time to rejuvenate our flowering landscape annuals and give them a kick in the plants! Chopping back stretched, tired or leggy annuals and then feeding with a water soluble fertilizer will give them new life.

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

They’ll kick back into gear and produce a new flush of growth and color well into October. Mums and Asters become available starting in August to supplement your rejuvenated annuals for continuous color. In addition ornamental grasses take center stage in August and September as drought and heat tolerant extroverts in your yard. This is also the month for panicle Hydrangeas like PG, ‘Limelight’ or ‘Little Lamb’ to take center stage in the landscape with their stunning cone shaped blooms. Easy to grow and reliable they put on a show in August and September.

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

August is also a month to think about having that lawn you’ve always wanted. The best time to seed or over seed or establish a new lawn is mid August to October 1. The soil is nice and warm and if you kill unwanted vegetation grass seed will establish nicely as we head into fall. I still believe August 15 to October 1 is the best time of year in Michigan to establish a little “lawn” and order. Remember also that newly hatched grubs do most of their damage to a lawn in August and September, especially if the lawn is thirsty. If you did not apply a grub control in July you still have time this month while the young grubs are feeding near the surface. If you apply now you shouldn’t have to apply next spring.

Establish some "lawn" and order in August

Establish some “lawn” and order in August

Keep vegetable plants like tomatoes well watered so they keep producing and be watching for those miserable tomato hornworms on the plants. Head outside in the evening hours with a bucket of soapy water and pick them off the plants to drown their sorrows in your bucket of soapy water. Plenty of water at the base of your tomatoes and the calcium supplements you added earlier in the season will avoid the unsightly blemishes and “zippering” of the fruit you long to pick.
Unfortunately this also the month to be vigilant in inspecting under decks, patio furniture, mailboxes and other hiding areas for European Paper Wasps. These unwelcome guests pack a wallop of a sting when disturbed and have become much too common in our late summer landscapes. Look for the “paper”-like nests attached to railings or under patio furniture and spray from a distance with a knock down stream of wasp control spray.

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

Don’t let your enthusiasm wilt in the heat of August. We’re only “humid” and the garden party has just begun. See you in September.
Rick Vuyst

We Rose to the Occasion

We “Rose” to the occasion!
Invite some royalty to your garden party this summer. The rose has long been the queen of the summer time garden. Roses have been symbols of love, fame, beauty, war, and celebration and have quite a history. From use as confetti at celebrations to a source for perfume, they “rose” to the occasion in good times and bad.

Own Root Roses

Own Root Roses

A lady with expensive taste and a love for gardening and roses, Napoleon’s wife Josephine established an extensive collection of roses at Chateau de Malmaison, an estate seven miles west of Paris in the 1800s. While Napoleon was out fighting his battles and making his conquests, Josephine was busy spending his money on the chateau and extensive gardens with a particular interest in roses. He was none too pleased with her floriferous spending habits but you can’t tell me he didn’t appreciate a stroll through the rose garden.
No one ever promised you a rose garden, and if some of your previous attempts met their Waterloo you might be hesitant to try them. Maintain your “composture” because help is on the way!
We Rose to the Occasion

We Rose to the Occasion

Roses today are enjoying a resurgence in popularity specifically shrub, landscape or what we call “own root” roses. Today’s time pressed homeowners are demanding of their landscape plants and roses are no exception. Landscape or shrub roses provide a long season of blooms and color from June to November. Very resistant to disease and problems and loaded with flowers June to November, they have excellent winter hardiness. Own-root roses are not grafted so it’s the same plant below the ground as above. They can do what a rose has always wanted to do and that is growing new canes from the root system. Therefore you get many more canes and lots more flowers on a hardy easy to grow plant. Simply put today’s varieties “rose” to the occasion.
There are many “own root” or shrub roses available to today’s homeowner from the “Drift” series
Drift Roses

Drift Roses

of groundcover roses to “Easy Elegance” roses they are a workhorse in the landscape. Varieties like “Knockout” and “Carefree Delight” or “Nearly Wild” and “Home Run” or “Yabba Dabba Doo”. I have some Proven Winners “Home Run” roses in my yard and they have continuous blooms and great disease resistance to both black spot and powdery mildew. They are heat tolerant, cold hardy with no winter covering and require no deadheading. I give them a general pruning back a couple times a year and that’s it!
For true success I recommend you plant them in a good sunny spot. Roses are sun worshippers. A minimum of 6 hours of sun a day or more will work. Shrub roses like any rose bush appreciate morning sun to help dry the foliage. Some attention to the soil will certainly help. Roses are heavy feeders so stay grounded my friend. I like to feed them with a dry feed around the base a few times a year. Rose Tone works well for feeding supplemented with a water soluble feeding now and then. Incorporating organic material into the existing soil at the time of planting is important to improve the structure of your soil and top it off with a one to two inch layer of mulch at the base. When the weather gets hot and sunny this summer they’ll appreciate a soil that has some moisture retention capability and yet well drained.
I very “mulch” encourage you to add own root or shrub roses to your landscape. They are not the work laden examples we’ve seen years ago of a few leafless stems with a bloom at the top. They go “Ka-bloom” in the garden and will impress your neighbors and friends. I know you can do it you “rose” to the occasion.

A “Root” awakening

If April showers bring May flowers then you my friend are in for a “root” awakening. Every April is different which adds to the adventure. I’ve seen 80-degree temperatures and I’ve seen frosts that would freeze the hardiest of plants. I’ve see sunshine and I’ve seen snow. Sounds like a James Taylor song doesn’t it?

Frozen tulips from last April

Frozen tulips from last April

Last year we had an early March warm up waking the entire landscape only to freeze in the great Arbor day frost of 2012. So what should we expect from our landscape dreams during the month of April? You my friend are in for a “root” awakening.

April first of all is a big month for lawn care in Michigan. The lawn greens and begins to grow and we welcome the sound of lawnmowers awakening in our neighborhoods.

Remember the drought damage from last year?

Remember the drought damage from last year?

A great month to get a deal on a 4 step lawn plan applying the first step now and storing the remaining 3 steps in the garage or shed for applications later in the year. The first feeding generally includes a crabgrass control which is important after the hot year we had in 2012. Crabgrass seed from last year over winters in the soil of your lawn and will wake and germinate when soil (not air) temperatures get to be around 60 degrees or warmer.

Soil thermometer

Soil thermometer

If you don’t have a soil thermometer, which most people don’t, you can listen to me on my radio show or you can use the old fashioned less scientific way of gauging spring’s wake up call.

That would be to act when the forsythias are in bloom or apply sometime around tax day. Certainly much easier for you than having to understand the methods of “growing degree days” that us horticultural people like to track at this time of year. Applying a crabgrass control in spring, especially in the hottest areas of the lawn like driveway or sidewalk edges or non-shaded areas will create a barrier to germination so you don’t have an infestation of unsightly crabgrass come the heat of summer.


Cold and frost tolerant Pansies

April includes Arbor Day which here in Michigan falls on the last Friday of the month. April is a great time to plant a tree or landscape shrub. We see many trees show off in April with Crabapples, Redbuds, Juneberry, Magnolia and Cherry trees to name a few. This month is perfect for planting evergreens and woody landscape plants, saving the more tender plants for May when frost is less of a threat. Remember that when it comes to “tender” plants a great frost tolerant plant for some early April flowers in the landscape would Pansies. In regards to tender foliage, keep some deer repellant handy and make sure to apply to susceptible plants during the month. Hungry deer after winter are anxious for a buffet of tender green growth including delicious Tulips and Hosta. Not tonight “deer.”

Understanding the weather can be a variable and tricky issue in April, it is a good month to work on soil preparation, planting bed preparation and some mulching. You don’t have to protect dirt and mulch from overnight frosts. Raised planting beds soil warm quicker in spring. If you’re itching to plant some herbs, pot up some containers and move them in and out contingent on weather conditions.

Thank you very "mulch"

Thank you very “mulch”

In regards to mulch, many will apply because it looks nice. True, but there is a functional use for mulch too. I saw a study that described the impact an appropriate layer of 2 inches of mulch can have for your landscape when the heat of summer does arrive. In this study on a San Antonio Texas day where the air temperature was 105 degrees and in the sun felt like 130 degrees, the bare soil was 102 degrees, the soil under the grass was 92 degrees and soil under 3 inches of mulch was 76 degrees. That gives you an idea of the soil temperature regulating benefit of mulch as well as its ability to hold moisture in the soil.

Let’s get out there and get “growing” now that winter is finally over. You my friend are in for a “root” awakening.

What a Hoot!

Interviewed raptor biologist Joe Rogers and scientist Joanne Williams on the Flowerland show Saturday. The work they do with wildlife recovery is wonderful and the birds of prey are amazing birds! We had a lot of fun, you could say it was a real hoot! Here are a few pictures from the event on Saturday January 26, 2013.

Joe Rogers in studio

Stare down with Orville the Owl







Owl pose great

“Whoooo” are you looking at?






Owl closeup

Does he give a hoot?






Joe with hawk

This show filled the bill





Fun was had by "Owl"

Fun was had by “Owl”

The Topic of Tropics

When the snow starts flying and the Christmas decorations are packed away most of us need a little pick-me-up in the home or office. Tropical plants are just the ticket. Take a trip to my January Women’s Lifestyle article where the topic is tropics as in foliage for your indoor living space! Visit this link and flip on over to page 34!

January issue Women’s Lifestyle

Happy Holly Daze

It’s time to deck the halls and yard in a festive flurry as we all test our holiday design skills squeezed into our already busy daily schedules….sounds like fun huh? I call it “Holly Daze” and you suddenly discover you’re in the thick of it when standing on an aluminum ladder in the dark holding a ball of lights and an extension cord.Auld Lang Pine You Auld Lang “Pine” for some help navigating the hap…happiest of holidays. Here are some “Holly Daze” pointers to help you through this “most wonderful time of the year.” Rick’s Six so to speak…….

1) Measure the area in your home where your tree will go before going to shop for your tree. Then take the tape measure along with you when going to get the tree. Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree and immediately plunge it into fresh water. Place a ping pong ball or fishing bobber in the bowl of the tree stand so you can see at a glance the water level. Maintain a sufficient water level in the tree stand at all times.stack of trees

2) In our area tying the tree to the top of the family sleigh is legal. You are however responsible to securely tie the tree. How many of us have cringed observing the vehicle on the expressway with a mattress tied to the top of the car? Place the tree with the trunk or butt or handle facing the front of the car, not the top facing the front. Think aerodynamics. It is your responsibility to prevent driving with a load that is “dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing off or shifting” for both your safety and the safety of others on the road.

3) If you light up the exterior of your home, it is generally considered neighborly practice to unplug the lights at night when you go to bed.Christmas lights This is particularly true if you have thousands of blinking lights and a 15 foot tall inflatable Santa in the front yard.

4) Christmas greens add fragrance, style and drama to your entry areas. Fresh green roping, wreaths and boughs are the perfect welcome to visitors arriving on your doorstep. Consider using an anti-dessicant spray like Wilt Stop to your greens to keep them fresh. A biodegradable pine resin spray can keep those greens looking fresh all the way to Valentine’s day if you choose to keep them up that long.blog porch pots With the popularity of container gardening, have some Porch Pots on the front steps to add to the holiday cheer. Some evergreen boughs, some clippings from the landscape and some ornamentation will make for a container of Christmas cheer.

5) Speaking of Christmas cheer, don’t drink and decorate. The Christmas spirits will cause you to think your presentation is beautiful but may be just the opposite to your audience…..those who drive by your house. glass of wineBesides it would be downright dangerous to drink and climb around on ladders with extension cords in your hands. Decorate like you drive…..and while you’re at it, wait with texting until the halls are decked.

6) Christmas is for kids but don’t use them for design or style advice. More can be tacky. Try repetition of a style or color. It ties the display together, gives it “reason” and is far more stylish than clutter.

It's over....call it a day....sorry that it had to end this way

It’s over….call it a day….sorry that it had to end this way

Happy Holly Daze! Before you know it as Johnny Mathis would sing…..it’s over….call it a day….sorry that it had to end this way…..