Thursday, February 27, 2014

Your 2/28/14 Edition of 'GardenAuthor@CorlissClips'

     Friday, February 28, 2014

Greetings and welcome to the online home of our weekly newsletter.

Comments? Questions?
Though this is a reprise from 2012, you’ll find
much of interest as you look ahead to a fresh,
new growing season.

Fill out the “Ask Deb” form in our sidebar, entering your
name and email address.  Leave your question or comment
in the message box and click “Send.”  You’ll receive an
emailed response within several days.
'Moonlight' Amaryllis... single blossoms
are flushed with lime green

On the 'Corliss Clips' Blog, your February
newsletter is posted... just keep scrolling,
since there are 4 pages!

Alternatively, here are the individual page links...

Page 1: Winter scenery/Rating the Landscape
Page 2: Specimens to brighten the winter landscape
Page 3: 2012 Seed starting tips
Page 4:  Bird Chatter/A short to-do list

"Care and Feeding of Your Indoor Oasis"
Why, even as we anticipate spring gardening, our indoor
gardens continue to bridge that gap between the seasons...
providing an outlet for restless gardeners.

By Deb Lambert

Photo: ©CBI 2007
Indoor, or Chinese Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
This is the third article in our indoor plant series. For the basics of plant selection, light, humidity and other tips for success, see my two previous newsletter articles... 'Creating an Indoor Oasis' (Feb. 10) and 'Success with a Smaller Indoor Oasis' (Feb. 17)... just scroll back to those weeks to review.

Overwatering is one of the most common causes of plant failure. Providing water, means possessing more than a vague awareness of a plant's preferences. Research the moisture requirements of any new plant, and water accordingly.

Overwatering is all too often, a slow, certain death. It forces vital oxygen from surface roots and once the lower roots become waterlogged and start to rot, death usually follows. Unless the plant is unpotted, the rotted roots trimmed off and much of the soil replaced, the decomposition process continues right up the root mass, even though you have corrected your watering habits.

A plant in low light dries out very slowly, as do plants during extended periods of cloudy weather. Your plant may not need water every Wednesday at 8 a.m., so get used to feeling the soil, and maybe even the weight of the pot, to know when it's time to water. My favorite "moisture meter" is the index finger of my right hand... just become familiar with each individual plant. Often, with larger specimens, it's wise to allow the soil to dry to a depth of 1-2 inches, between waterings. Never leave the pot in standing water, which is reabsorbed, leading to root rot.

Many plants require little, if any, fertilizer from October to March. However, personal experience has proven that a monthly application of an organic solution, which includes fish and seaweed (Neptune's Harvest Organic Fish/Seaweed Blend Fertilizer®) is just right for winter maintenance, without forcing excessive growth during dormancy. Use twice monthly for active plants - African violets, begonias, stock geraniums and Hibiscus are flowering plants that remain active all year 'round.  Starting in March, use twice monthly for all your indoor specimens.

There are many water-soluble, high-phosphorus, chemical fertilizers (Miracle-Gro®, Peters®, etc.) that are traditionally used, especially for flowering plants, but there's an increasing interest in the organic alternatives, as we cultivate our indoor plants.  Maintaining a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms is just as important for our potted plants, as it is for our landscape.  Make an informed decision about your indoor oasis feeding, then follow package directions.

Remain ever-vigilant for insect problems. Within a few days, several aphids or spider mites can escalate into a full-blown infestation. Aphids, available in a rainbow of colors, congregate on tender, new shoots. Spider mites prefer foliage undersides, as well as the interior growth, making their damage even more insidious. Looking like tiny grains of sand, they'll eventually create webbing throughout the plant. Monitor for mealybug and scale - both sucking insects, as well. Mealybugs are beige or white, setting up housekeeping in cottony nests. Hard-shelled scales are dark brown (busily sucking the life from your plant, beneath their well-armored shell), and are quite hard to detect along bark-covered stems.

Get in the habit of examining your indoor plants, for insect or disease problems, each time you feed or water - it's all about prevention, as it is in our gardens. Sticky residue (dried sap and/or insect excretion) is a red flag... look for the culprit. Another cue is the sooty mold that grows on excreted sap - this is secondary... control the insects, wash off the sooty mold and both problems disappear. Many folks panic, upon discovering the mold, and reach for a fungicide.

Fortunately, true fungus problems on our houseplants are relatively rare. Powdery mildew is the most often encountered disease. Avoid wetting the foliage of sensitive, often hairy-leaved plants, such as African violets and begonias. While insecticidal soap, soybean oil and horticultural oil offer fairly safe solutions for insect control, there is one option that controls both insects and disease. Neem oil, extracted from the Neem tree of India, is an effective insecticide. Neem oil, when extracted from the seed of this tree, controls disease, as well as insects. I have had great results in the past, controlling garden pests and diseases with this organic, broad-spectrum product.

Do your homework, before investing in new subjects for your indoor oasis. Will they thrive and bring as much delight to the interior, as your hardy plants bring to the exterior, of your home? Plan ahead. Do you have a nice spot, with filtered sun, all picked out for their summer vacation... perhaps a shaded patio or porch? Stay abreast of the latest varieties, as well as new controls and maintenance techniques. Practice vigilance and prevention. Use that gardener's common sense and you'll have a happy, healthy indoor oasis.
Seed Starting

Certain seeds, like petunia and geranium, are notoriously slow to germinate and progress toward maturity at a veritable snail’s pace. A quick check on the seed packet, in the seed catalog or with the garden center staff, should reveal which seeds require an early start.

Containers: Plastic trays, fitted with inserts are ideal and allow each plant an individual compartment in which to mature. Some plants benefit from transplanting, once or twice, getting progressively stronger. For these, broadcast in a flat and transplant when the first “true” leaves appear (first set are generic looking seed leaves). Handle seedlings by the leaves, to avoid crushing delicate stems. Peat cubes, pellets and pots, along with small plastic pots, round out the container selection, which is based upon your own preferences. Soil: At least for the first phase, choose a soilless seed starting mixture of peat, vermiculite and perlite. Later, transplant to a light blend, which includes all of the above, in addition to an organic base (usually decomposed bark). Finely milled sphagnum moss is ideal for lightly covering the sown seeds, lessening the chance of damping-off.

Water: Tepid water, allowing the filled inserts to absorb water from the bottom until the top surface is dampened - drain excess water from the tray, immediately. As seedlings progress, light, topical watering may be preferred. Light: With very few exceptions, light is not critical for germination, but bottom heat is... which is why many of us place our covered seed trays (I lay folded grocery bags across them) atop the fridge and let the “free” heat circulate up around them, to hasten germination. Keep them lightly damp and check frequently, uncovering the flats and moving them to a light source, as germination commences. Thereafter, a sunny, south-facing window (near a source of bottom heat, if possible) will suffice, as long as the trays are turned 180º each day, to prevent leaning and stretching. Alternatively, a hooded fluorescent fixture, equipped with grow bulbs, wide spectrum or cool white bulbs (a combination of 2 different types usually works well) should be maintained at a distance of 3-4" above seedling tops. Raise the fixture as seedlings progress, maintaining the same distance.

Bottom Heat: Thermostatically controlled heating mats, sized to fit on a windowsill or to accommodate from 1-4 seedling trays, are now available to hasten the germination of seedlings or the rooting of cuttings.   

That’s a quick, thumbnail approach to seed starting. The garden center staff is just a phone call away, should you have cultural questions or product inquiries. February’s delights live within the pages of seed catalogs - glossy, technicolor dreams of possibilities for a brand new growing season and in the seed racks at your favorite retail establishment... ours await your perusal!
February Seed Starting Reminder:
Celery ~ sow seed in four-inch plastic pots and transplant to individual cell-packs about mid-March. Leeks ~ Seeds are sown in four-inch plastic pots and covered with 1/4 inch of the seed starting medium. They can grow along in these pots, fed regularly from March until a May transplanting to the garden.
Onions ~ Start in four-inch plastic pots and thin to 1/2" apart. You can move them into cell-packs, but they will do just fine in these pots until an April garden planting. 
Tomatoes ~ Tomatoes??? If you want the first tomato harvest on your block, start one of the earliest varieties (Early Girl, etc.) in February... admittedly, this works best if you have a greenhouse or a hot, sunny garden room.  Getting these to the point of setting fruit before they're set out in May (don't forget to harden them off), should result in a June harvest.  A four to six week indoor head-start is still ideal for mid and late season tomatoes... after hardening-off, they'll adjust quickly to the warm soils of late May.
Flowers* ~ Generally speaking, it's the small-seeded flowers like begonias, impatiens, geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, and salvia that need the earliest start.  An indoor start in February produce sizable plants for mid to late May transplanting. 
All of the above will germinate more reliably and faster if set on a heating pad maintained at 70-75º.
Growing flowers from seed?


"As we give our vegetables and herbs the benefit 
of a head-start indoors, we should consider some of..."
Our Reader Feedback Forum…
Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?

  This week it’s Sweet Autumn Clematis 

and Spring Blooms
 This is a topic we've visited before and one that continues 
to generate questions and comments.  The genesis of all 
this activity/garden chat is an article I wrote 
several years ago on 'GardenAuthor' entitled, 
"Sweet Autumn Clematis"

"Anonymous" comments: I did not recognize the "volunteer" that appeared, spilling out over my driveway with great puffs of fragrant little white flowers several years ago, but decided it was a keeper, nonetheless. Checking around town (mid-Kansas) I saw examples almost everywhere. Undoubtedly it was planted by birds eating the seeds from some of those vines. I do not find it particularly invasive and have trained it to mask a picket garbage can enclosure. I look forward every year to its beauty. I'm going to try propagating it from seed this year. 
My reply: Anonymus ~ Nice that you're enjoying that volunteer, putting it to good use as a screen. Mine has never been overly aggressive or shown signs of an invasive tendency; however, I mentioned the possibility in the article, since I know of several plantings that have not been so well behaved. This is more often the case in warmer climes than our Zone 5/New England area. 
A note about volunteers: As is so often true of plants raised from seed, they are likely to differ from the parent. In this case, the sweet fragrance is likely to be minimal or non-existent. The only way to be assured of fragrant progeny, is to propagate by vegetative means... cuttings or soil layer. 
Great plant, as far as I'm concerned! Much success with yours... Deb 
To "Anonymus": A followup comment... Your question and my reply will be covered in the "You Talk" segment of our local garden center newsletter, 'GardenAuthor@CorlissClips' (on As we prepare for the upcoming growing season, gardeners may be seeking such exuberant, fragrant coverage as the sweet Autumn Clematis. 
Thanks for commenting... Deb
To read the complete article on the 'GardenAuthor' Blog, 
click on "Sweet Autumn Clematis"
You'll also find all the other questions and comments that 
have been generated over the last few seasons. 

From longtime subscriber and regular contributor, 
Farmer Brad, we have signs certain 
that spring is on the way!
These are from our field reporter's grounds...
 Galanthus nivalis (snowdrops)
Eranthis hyemalis in bud (winter aconite)
We're back on MSO Web Radio!
Enjoy weekly interviews, covering timely garden topics,
conducted by Rick Moore

• Each week, click on "North Shore Today"...
• You'll arrive at the MSO News Page
 • Scroll down to the latest 'GardenAuthor' interview
with Deb Lambert & Rick Moore

~ North Shore Today/'GardenAuthor' Interviews ~ 
• February 8, 2012 ~ 'GardenAuthor' Returns
with helpful hints on some late winter prep
• Back next week with a new interview
MSO Web Radio ~ Dedicated to producing exclusive,
positive, local, online coverage to the North Shore.
Spring Fever?
Looking for something to soothe your
fevered brow this weekend?
The Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show,
Presented in partnership with the 
Rhode Island Horticultural Society
Check their website for all the details... Speakers & Events, 
Gardens & Vignettes, and Marketplace Vendors

Click here, on...
  The Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show
for all the weekend info!
(online tickets no longer available)
The Boston Flower & Garden Show

(Click above to access the MassHort website and all the
details about the Flower Show & membership)

BLOOMS! 2012 at the
Boston Flower & Garden Show

Free Flower Show Tickets with Membership
in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society
Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 to Sunday March 18, 2012
Seaport World Trade Center
Boston, MA 02210

First Impressions
"The WOW Factor to Outdoor Spaces"

In 2012, The Boston Flower & Garden Show returns to the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston on Wednesday, March 14 through Sunday, March 18 and will offer hundreds of ideas for adding the 'wow' factor and a welcoming vibe to one's outdoor spaces.

Note: Please call first, but as of this writing, Corliss Bros. has tickets available to The Boston Flower & Garden Show ~ you'll be all set to enjoy your taste of spring, come March 14th!  Call 978.356.5422 for current ticket availability.  Above info courtesy: ©MassHort, as it appeared on their site.

A Sweet Weekend Diversion from 
Mass Audubon...
at the Ipswich River Sanctuary

Click on "Maple Sugaring Tours" for all 
the exciting (and delicious) details!

Saturdays and Sundays: March 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, & 18
Tours at 10:00 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm

Great New England family fare!
(Advance registration is required.)

Sweet dreams, 'GardenPup'

Lucy-Maude ~ constant companion, in and out of 
the garden... you will be missed forever.  
Thank you for sharing your fifteen years with me!

Lucy-Maude 11/25/96 - 2/21/12

©DJL/CBI 2012-2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Your 2/21/14 Edition of 'GardenAuthor@CorlissClips'

     Friday, February 21, 2014

Greetings and welcome to the online home of our weekly newsletter.

Comments? Questions?

Though this is a reprise from 2012, you’ll find
much of interest as you look ahead to a fresh,
new growing season.

Fill out the “Ask Deb” form in our sidebar, entering your
name and email address.  Leave your question or comment
in the message box and click “Send.”  You’ll receive an
emailed response within several days.

On the 'Corliss Clips' Blog, your February
newsletter is posted... just keep scrolling,
since there are 4 pages!

Alternatively, here are the individual page links...

Page 1: Winter scenery/Rating the Landscape
Page 2: Specimens to brighten the winter landscape
Page 3: 2012 Seed starting tips
Page 4:  Bird Chatter/A short to-do list 
Success with a Smaller Indoor Oasis
Because we all need, and are looking forward to, 
a little bit of this...

Because we all need a stop-gap, between lingering winter and reticent spring. And, because we don't all have a sun room or solarium in which to create an indoor oasis, there are simple steps we can take to extend our season. At least some of that pent-up energy and creativity that all backyard gardeners seem to possess, can be vented in the creation and maintenance of an indoor plant oasis.

Not only will our spirits be lifted by green, growing plants within the living space, but we'll enjoy the health benefits inherent with their cultivation. Increased humidity and the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen, will be provided by even a relatively small group of plants. Many gases and pollutants emitted by carpets, drapes and other household furnishings, are removed by such specimens as the pothos and spider plant.

In deciding which plants are appropriate for your home, consider available light, average temperature and proximity to heat sources. While natural light can be supplemented through the use of plant lights, it's best to position plants where they'll receive ideal light, according to their requirements.

Although a hot, south-facing window may scorch the tender foliage of Ficus or Spathiphyllum, it would be ideal for cacti, Yucca, Aloe and other succulents. A low-lit living room wouldn't support a high-light plant such as Swedish ivy, but may be ideal for Chinese evergreen, Aspidistra, Dracena, Pothos, or Spathiphyllum.

Or, maybe you'll choose a Sansevieria for your indoor garden. Its long, tough, semi-succulent foliage is attractively variegated and this strong plant will live just about anywhere. High light, low light, dry soil or dry air are not a problem for this old time favorite, sometimes known as 'mother-in-law's tongue.' Sansevieria and split-leaf Philodendron have provided the interior landcsaping for many a barber shop or doctor's office.

Keep in mind, as you plan your plant groupings and position those plants, that available sunlight varies with the passing of the seasons. While that south-facing window is ideal for Hibiscus and other flowering plants during winter, it's too intense during the summer, at which point they should be moved to an east-facing window, or outdoors to a partly shaded location. By the same token, a window that may provide strong sunlight now, may be shaded during the growing season, as shade trees foliate, changing indoor light dramatically.

The best rule of thumb is never to force the situation: don't insist on cultivating a plant in an inappropriate setting (sound familiar? as in the premise behind planning the exterior landscaping?). I once checked a newly-established Ficus benjamina for a client, only to find it in very low light. Although the living room was moderately bright, the plant was tucked away into a dimly-lit corner. While weak, new growth was sprouting from the tips, so much older foliage had been shed, that this specimen was a skeleton of its former self.

A plant light being installed above the Ficus would certainly help (if run about 10 hours per day), but the ideal situation would have been removing it to bright, diffused sunlight... leaving that corner for the low-light specimens already outlined. Syngonium, with its arrowhead leaves, is available with attractive variegation and is a personal favorite for low and medium light situations.

Another factor to consider with low light is that soils dry out slowly, making it easy to over-water. As with any plant, it's important not to leave standing water in the saucer, which leads to root rot and other problems. Always fill trays or saucers with small pebbles, set pots atop the stones and excess water drains safely away. You can also add water daily to the stone bed, just below the pot base. Water rises up around the plant as beneficial humidity. Such a constant source of humidity is much more reliable than "spritzing" the foliage with a mister bottle.

With just a little planning, and a bit of research, it's possible to enjoy a scaled-down version of that indoor oasis, we discussed last time. As for spring, and looking for that elusive bud-break, well keep up the search and start those spring garden, as weather permits. Meanwhile, turn those green thumbs brown, tending your indoor gardens!
New Amaryllis Bulbs Double the Fun!
While the rich velvety red 'Double Dragon' and the pink-bordered, glistening-white petals of 'Blossom Peacock' may not be new in the truest sense of the word, or to you my fellow gardeners, these Amaryllis are new to my winter windowsill this year.  There are other species, waiting in the wings for their debut, but.... 
Read more, enjoy Amaryllis photos,
and a bit of humor, by clicking below.......

"New Amaryllis Bulbs Double the Fun!" 
on the 'GardenAuthor' Blog
Our Reader Feedback Forum…
Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?

This week it’s Re-wrapping with Burlap

A reverse of the normal "How-To" advice that we like
to share with fellow gardeners, is the following piece
 sent in by a local gardener who wished to share her
photos, so that others might "watch and learn."
It's a "How-Not-To" snippet entitled,

"It's Not a Wrap!"
A handyman, full of assurances regarding his expertise in the field of plant protection, offered his services in wrapping certain landscape specimens with burlap... against the onslaught of a New England winter.  Upon inspection of the "well-protected plants," it appeared to the homeowner/gardener (and anyone viewing these photos) that this handyman's handiwork left much to be desired!  The first light snowfall would have had devastating effects, not to mention the wind factor. 

After viewing the handiwork, our gardener described this first
effort as a conceptual art installation.

This one she likened to "a delicate summer shawl for my Star
Magnolia tree, which will be a tree in another 20 years or so."
Last, but not least, we have this description...
"This is probably the most  mysterious . . . four thin bamboo
stakes planted around the Hydrangea with a little burlap
square tied to each delicate bamboo stake . . .
kind of pagoda-like."

Finally, under threat of Saturday's forecast storm, she went out 
and re-wrapped all her tender specimens, as above.
Now, "that's a wrap!"

We're back on MSO Web Radio!
Enjoy weekly interviews, covering timely garden topics,
conducted by Rick Moore

• Each week, click on "North Shore Today"...
• You'll arrive at the MSO News Page 
• Scroll down to the latest 'GardenAuthor' interview
Just keep scrolling!
• February 8, 2012 ~ 'GardenAuthor' Returns 
with helpful hints on some late winter prep
(None for 2/15, but we'll return next week)

MSO Web Radio ~ Dedicated to producing exclusive,
positive, local, online coverage to the North Shore.

Always more info on ~

Clicking on brings you to the
"Welcome" page, where you can access all the features,
including "GardenAuthor@CorlissClips ~
Newsletter Supplement Blog"

Or, take these shortcuts...
Chapter One ~ “Mulching the Ornamental Landscape”
Chapter Two ~ “Quick-Start Charts for Backyard Edibles”
Chapter Three ~ "Grow Your Own Birdseed!"
Spring Fever?
Looking for something to soothe your 
fevered brow, this weekend or next?

Presented in partnership with the Rhode Island Horticultural Society

 Roger Swain is just one of the scheduled speakers.

Designers, nurseries, garden centers, landscapers, florists, 
schools, plant societies and preservationists are among 
the talented "Simple Pleasures" presenters.

An amazing array of garden-related goodies, 
tempting to eager, impatient gardeners.

Click here, on... 
for all the details and ticket info!
Coming in March!

Massachusetts Horticultural Society
The Boston Flower & Garden Show 

(Click above to access the MassHort website and all the 
details about the Flower Show & membership)

BLOOMS! 2012 at the
Boston Flower & Garden Show

Free Flower Show Tickets with Membership
in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 to Sunday March 18, 2012
Seaport World Trade Center
Boston, MA 02210

First Impressions
"The WOW Factor to Outdoor Spaces"

In 2012, The Boston Flower & Garden Show returns to the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston on Wednesday, March 14 through Sunday, March 18 and will offer hundreds of ideas for adding the 'wow' factor and a welcoming vibe to one's outdoor spaces.

The theme - First Impressions- will showcase ways to express one's personality and style as well as add enjoyment and value to one's property.

Set to the backdrop of over 25 garden displays by cutting-edge landscape professionals and area nurseries, the 2012 Boston Flower & Garden Show will also offer 48 lectures and demonstrations by top garden writers, industry professionals and chefs, shopping from 200 vendors featuring thousands of plants and hundreds of the newest gardening products, as well as chances to take home exciting giveaways.

Here is what you can expect at the show:
Meet HGTV star John Gidding, host of Curb Appeal: The Block, when he visits the show Friday, March 16 to demonstrate easy garden makeovers.
Become an Urban Gardening Guru: Stop by on your way home from the office for the After Work Urban Gardening Series in which city garden center staff and horticultural non-profits will lead programs on growing edibles in containers, community gardens and gardening in small spaces.
Learn the Value of Curb Appeal: Local real estate professionals will offer landscape staging tips and estimate the true value of specific landscape upgrades.
Get the Party Started: Local chefs will transform easily-grown produce and herbs into impressive, party-starting appetizers for your next backyard bash.
Strut Your Stuff In Floral Competitions: The annual tradition continues as the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts coordinate colorful competitions amongst the region's top amateur floral arrangers and horticulturists, all set to the show theme.

Note: As of this writing, Corliss Bros. has tickets available to The Boston Flower & Garden Show ~ you'll be all set to enjoy your taste of spring, come March 14th!  Call 978.356.5422 for current ticket availability.  Above info courtesy: ©MassHort, as it appeared on their site.
Backyard Naturalists...

Any of you loyal readers and visitors will recall that throughout last season, we had a seemingly endless parade of critters, insects and various forms of wildlife... much of it on display at the counter and many shared with you, through our weekly newsletter.  I'm assembling quite an album to share with you as early as next week... a pretty neat, sometimes beautiful and occasionally outright ugly collection to remind you of nature's wonders.  

For now, the short story.......
Very late in last season, a parsley caterpillar was brought 
inside and placed in one of our little screen houses.
(This one was from my garden, seen here enjoying an 
Angelica plant late last spring... a fine, healthy specimen!)

While we decided what should be done with it, the caterpillar formed a chrysalis suspended from the screen house ceiling.  Well, it was somewhat forgotten, up on a shelf with last season's insect collecting gear.  On Monday, the staff noticed activity... our parsley caterpillar had emerged as a 
beautiful black swallowtail butterfly. 

 Obviously, it cannot be released outside, so was provided with nectar stations, fruit slices and other essentials in our little sun room.  Being cold-blooded, our butterfly is happy to stay within this area, seeking necessary warmth and sustenance.

  Most butterflies only live for about two weeks, feeding on nectar and laying eggs.  As there's only one butterfly, we can rule out the possibility of progeny from this particular specimen.  Meanwhile, we'll just enjoy this little bit of summer during February! 

©DJL/CBI 2012-2014
Butterfly Photos: ©CBI Staff
Flower & Garden Show Info for Rhode Island & Massachusetts, courtesy of their respective websites.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Your 2/7/14 Edition of 'GardenAuthor@CorlissClips'

     Friday, February 7, 2014

Though this is a reprise from 2012, you'll find 
much of interest as you look ahead to a fresh, 
new growing season.

Greetings and welcome to the online home of our weekly newsletter.

Comments? Questions?
Just click on "Comments" at the end of this week's post. 
I will address questions & comments in this section each week. 
Many of these gardener questions and answers will be also be published
the following week, forming the basis of our reader feedback forum. 
If you notice that comments have been left, I encourage you to browse
through "Comments" for an expanded look at the weekly topic. 
This newsletter now boasts its own email address, for an additional
avenue of contact. Simply click on "Email Me!" in our sidebar    ☛

Enough to keep you reading until next week!

Do you grow vegetables and herbs?  Have you
found the quick-reference charts on the GardenAuthor
website?  Use them as you plan this season's crops!

Clicking on brings you to the
"Welcome" page, where you can access all the features.

Once there, click on "GardenAuthor@CorlissClips ~
Newsletter Supplement Blog"... click on "Chapter Two"

Or, take this shortcut ~ Chapter Two ~
“Quick-Start Charts for Backyard Edibles”
On the 'Corliss Clips' Blog, your February
newsletter is posted... just keep scrolling,
since there are 4 pages!

Alternatively, here are the individual page links...
Page 1 / Page 2 / Page 3 / Page 4

Page 1: Winter scenery/Rating the Landscape
Page 2: Specimens to brighten the winter landscape
Page 3: 2012 Seed starting tips
Page 4:  Bird Chatter/A short to-do list and a
Valentine's Day Reminder
From the National Garden Bureau...
"Year of the" Crops for 2012

To access fact sheets on each of the three categories,
where you'll find amazing photos, as well as
history, hybrids and cultural tips,
just click on the appropriate link below...

• "Vegetables/Edibles" ~ Year of the Herbs

(Photo Courtesy NGB)
Herb ~ Basil 'Siam Queen'

• "Flowers" ~ Year of the Geranium

(Photo Courtesy NGB) 
Geranium 'Americana White Splash'

 • "Perennials" ~ Year of the Heuchera 

(Photo Courtesy NGB)
Heuchera ~ A collage of hybrids


Our Reader Feedback Forum…
Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?

This week it’s nasturtiums, stumps & poplars, along
with a few suggestions for hedging/screening candidates
Through the GardenAuthor email address came this question...

Jim asked about the availability of nasturtium seed, eliminating poplar stumps and suggestions for replacing a Lombardy Poplar hedge.

My Response: We have a nice selection of Nasturtium seeds... dwarf, trailing... various heights in mixed and some single colors.  You'll find them in the Botanical Interests, Burpee and Harts seed racks ~ Alaska, Jewel, Glorious Gleams, Empress of India, Peach Melba to name a few.

We do carry Bonide's "Stump-Out" (drill holes, deposit granules and after 4-6 weeks, apply kerosene and it will burn out to the roots... or, let it work to break down the lignin and chop it up after 6 weeks) as well as Stump and Vine Killer (applied to freshly cut stumps)... both will hasten the breakdown of stumps. 

Not as fast are organic alternatives which include drilling holes into the stumps and filling them with epsom salts or high-nitrogen organic fertilizer (blood meal, fish meal), covering with an old piece of carpet to exclude light, or pounding copper nails into the stump.  Positioning a compost pile atop the stump allows the natural beneficial organisms (bacterial and fungal) that beak down organic matter to become established within the wood and hasten the decomposition process.  In most cases, cutting the stump flush with the ground is recommended... arborists also offer stump grinding.

Lombardy poplars are rarely available locally as their susceptibility to various diseases, including trunk canker, makes them short-lived.  Hedging/screening alternatives might include ~ Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), Arborvitae ('Emerald Green'), larger-scale Viburnum trilobum (American Cranberry/Wentworth Cranberry, etc.), Syringa (Lilac - common & many taller hybrids), Amelanchier (Shadblow - clump form), Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel), Hydrangea paniculata ('Tardiva' or Pee Gee), Ilex verticillata (winterberry), purple smokebush (Cotinus) and Salix discolor (common pussy willow).  For more height, you might consider Chanticleer Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Cleveland select'), which is often recommended as a Lombardy substitute... fairly narrow outline, maturing at 25-35' high by 10-15' wide.  In a nice, open sunny location, a mixed border... perhaps including several evergreen specimens for winter interest, is another possibility.  Various flowering times, berries, foliage color all add year 'round interest.  [The above specimens will not attain the 40-60 foot height of Lombardy poplars, but are great, long-lived screening alternatives for most home landscapes.]

The conclusion? Subsequent correspondence revealed that this was a narrow area and the height was needed to screen an unsightly ivy-covered concrete wall.  Jim is very partial to the Lombardy poplar and has decided to plant these fast-growing specimens for the third time, which he describes as "blowing in the wind like giants dancing."  I think we all have a preferred specimen or two, that despite inherent health or hardiness issues, we persist in cultivating... rising to the challenge, maybe "the thrill of the hunt?"

And, to Jim's remark, "I will be coming up soon to look around, so get the place ready" ~ I replied... "Drop by anytime, especially now when we're busy readying the store for spring (and your impending visit!), and we'll be glad to discuss seed, stump and plant options.  Nice to see our readers "thinking spring!"  Maybe it's the mild winter, but spring fever seems to be arriving earlier than usual.

NEW! ~ Just posted on

Chapter Three ~ Grow Your Own Birdseed!

Garden plants that offer significant
seed production to attract wild birds...

"Supplemental bird feeding is just that ~ supplemental.  While we offer suet, black oil sunflower and various other seeds or seed blends to ease the lot of non-migratory songbirds during a New England winter, this practice should be considered an adjunct to a home landscape rich in naturally-occurring food.  You may, in fact, discover through perusal of our lists, that you’re already cultivating..... "


Of interest to local birders ~ 
two time-sensitive reminders from

1. YOU Can Be Part of Our Winter Bird Count!

On the weekend of February 4th and 5th, keep a list of the birds you see
at your bird feeder and in your yard, and the greatest number
of each species you see at one time.

Just click here on "Focus on Feeders" for details!

 2. Enter Mass Audubon’s Focus on Feeders 2012 photo contest!

• Photo submission starts in February
• Photos are not limited to birds – they may include other wildlife.

Just click on Focus on Feeders 2012 Photo Contest for details!

The above announcement is just a sampling of
the simple pleasures that await us each winter,
on a local basis, here in New England.

Yes, prepare and plan for spring gardening activities,
but don't neglect the joys of winter!

© DJL/CBI 2012-2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"President of the Garden Club"

Quite by accident, I came across this episode from the 1954-1955 sitcom "Meet Corliss Archer."  I had never heard of this show, but with the name "Corliss" in the title and an episode about a garden club, I just had to take the 26 minutes to watch this classic comedy... wait till you see what happens to the prize rose!

Trouble viewing?  Click on "President of the Garden Club" to view on the Internet Archive site.

A little corny and dated, but refreshingly free of the questionable content of today's sitcoms.

Full disclosure: I came across this episode in my Google search, seeking a name for a new project I'm trying to get off the ground... more on this later!

Meanwhile, pop the corn and enjoy the video!


Newsletter ©DJL/CBI 2013/2014

Friday, December 20, 2013

Your 12/20/13 Edition of 'GardenAuthor@CorlissClips'

 Friday, December 20, 2013
Reprised from its original 2012 publication, there is much in
this edition to enhance your holidays & fall gardening...

Decorating and gift-giving ideas  • Link to our holiday edition of
'Corliss Clips'  • Last-minute garden chores
Comments? Questions?

Fill out the “Ask Deb” form in our sidebar, entering your
name and email address.  Leave your question or comment
in the message box and click “Send.”  You’ll receive an
emailed response within several days.

A little late decorating on your schedule?

We can assist you with cut trees, living trees, greens,
decorated wreaths and other seasonal items... a
quick call to 978-356-5422 will inform you about
our remaining holiday inventory, much of it reduced
in price.  And, yes... we're still ready to create custom
bows from our gorgeous selection of ribbon
for your wreaths and greens - just ask!
The December issue of 'Corliss Clips'
is posted ~ Happy Holidays!
Enjoy the photos!

While your author is "on holiday," enjoy the
four pages of our January 'Corliss Clips' newsletter!
Page 1 / Page 2 / Page 3 / Page 4

I might also suggest perusing the archives of the
'GardenAuthor' blog, along with all the helpful lists
and charts on

Just so you know...
The garden center will be closed from
2:30 PM on 12/24/12
until 9:00 AM on 1/8/13
(You might want to stock up on
wild bird and indoor plant supplies.)

Winter hours (start 1/8/13):
Tues.- Sat. 9:00 - 4:00
Closed Sunday & Monday
Last minute gift ideas?

Gifts for gardeners are easy to conceive in our
garden shop... cutting tools, garden tools, hose reels,
watering implements, bird houses, bird feeders, bird food,
seeds, seed starting supplies, garden hats, garden shoes,
garden statuary, ceramic pottery, wind chimes, sundials...
dream up the perfect gift pack for that favorite gardener,
or let us design one for you!
We also have themed gift baskets ready to go.

Stocking stuffers abound, in the form of miniature
clippers, small weeding knives, tiny stone owls
and seed packets from Harts Seeds, Burpee and
Botanical Interests.

Does that seasoned gardening friend seem to
have everything they need?

We have the perfect gift!

We're back on...

 with weekly audio interviews ~
timely garden topics presented by
MSO host Rick Moore.

Click on "North Shore Today" / News Page
to hear our 12/19 garden chat,
"Still Time for Garden Gifts"

We'll be "on holiday" for a couple of weeks,
returning with the next round of interviews about
indoor gardening, seed starting and items of interest
about a brand new growing season... stay tuned!
We'll be here all winter long, 
Tuesdays-Saturdays (9:00a-4:00p)...
with bird supplies, wood pellets, firewood & kindling in
bundles, seeds and seed starting supplies, houseplant needs,
and plenty of time to discuss your plans and needs for the 2013
growing season.  We'll be readying the store for spring, but will
always make time to solve bird feeding, houseplant, seed starting
and other early season dilemmas.  It's also a good time to put in
special requests for plant material, based on our catalog selections.
Our new catalog becomes available in March, but our current
catalog will still serve as a general guide to our selections.
"Holiday for Gardeners"

Wrapped in snow, but not far from the mind,
Our gardens lie dormant, just biding their time.
Overlapping bud scales, tight against cold,
Protecting the burgeoning life they hold.

Rhododendron leaves in a downward curl,
We anticipate spring when their buds unfurl.
The flowering crab is festive, in berry,
A mockingbird dines, seeming quite merry.

While we’re warm indoors, the songbirds strive,
Seeking food and shelter, just to survive.
As cold winds blow, the snow drifts deep,
Yet never is heard a complaining peep.

We hang our feeders and scatter some seed,
For small, clinging birds and those that ground-feed.
The unyielding ground may stay frozen and bare,
We must provide water, if truly we care.

Yes, here we sit, all cozy and warm,
Ready to weather the winter storm.
Relieving our plants from the burden of snow,
Armed with a broom, outside we must go.

We stake and wrap and spray and tie,
Hoping that winter will pass us by.
Hoping our garden is spared the brunt
Of howling winds from the weather front.

For now, settle back with a good garden book,
As you give your landscape a close, second look.
As you sit by the window and peer through the glass,
You envision bright blooms and emerald-green grass.

But it’s time to relax, this holiday season,
A joy in giving, not needing a reason.
A trowel, a hat and maybe a book,
A sundial, a birdbath for some little nook.

A saw, some pruners to keep things in trim,
Flower seeds, gift certificates, all on a whim.
For a gardener, you see, is easy to please,
With gloves for her hands or a bench for his knees.

She envisions, she reads and sometimes she dreams,
Of gardens ‘midst rocks or by cool, shady streams.
The holiday gift, you so thoughtfully choose,
Generates joy that’s quite hard to lose.

So gather some goodies in a basket or pot,
A few select items, or maybe a lot.
Your favorite gardener will glow with delight,
Pondering your gift, well into the night.

May your backyard gardens stand upright and strong,
May your family and friends stay snug and warm.
As we rest from our labors, may we take the time
To enjoy our surroundings and let nature shine!
A Feast for the Birds

 He tilts his black-capped head and fastens an eye on me,
 “Is the diner open for business, yet...Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee?
 The birds’ town crier, in a bluejay suit, issues his clarion call,
 Soon, flocks of birds come drifting in, waiting on the wall.

 Feeders filled, suet cages packed, the water’s fresh and clean,
 Winter’s feast will last until the trees have once again turned green.
 Safflower for cardinals, thistle for finches and sunflower for all,
 Roosting boxes and bird houses give shelter from the squall.

‘Tis the season to introduce a friend to the joys of backyard birding!
Enjoy the warmth of holiday plants...
Complete your interior decorating with fresh Poinsettias, 
Cyclamen and Christmas Cactus.

And, don’t forget the Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs!
We have some great 'Christmas Gift' (a stunning white) and
'Red Lion' (a rich, royal red) Amaryllis bulbs... not yet showing buds,
for wise gardeners looking for an extended season of color from
these spectacular, ever-popular bulbs!  At last glance, we had a few
other varieties, as well... some already budding.

The following are topics that continue to generate questions,
even as we proceed through the busy run-up to the holidays.

Some things bear repeating, such as this late fall garden checklist.  December 7th seemed a bit late to be presenting these reminders, but as relatively mild weather continues, the tardy gardeners among us have a reprieve... a chance to wrap up those loose ends so necessary at season's end.
And so, we present these final chores of the 2012 season...

What can we do to conserve moisture within our plants?  Water until the ground freezes, if we experience a dry fall.  We are fortunate this fall, with Mother Nature providing copious rainfall, of late.  Any plant that begins winter in a dehydrated state, will suffer accelerated damage.  Normal transpiration, when combined with strong winds and freezing temperatures, will cause excessive damage and die back, if not death. Plants facing their first winter are particularly susceptible to winter desiccation, as are broadleaf evergreens, like azaleas and rhododendrons.  A further aid for conserving moisture within stems and foliage, is the application of an anti-desiccant, such as pine-resin based Wilt Pruf® or Wilt Stop®.  Again, newly-planted specimens, along with broadleaf evergreens, are prime candidates for this extra winter insurance. A dry day, with 40-50º temperatures, is ideal for application. Spray upper and lower leaf surfaces, to protect all the stomata from moisture loss. Follow all package directions, as some needled evergreens should not be treated, or may require a time-specific application.

What are the best deterrents to keep deer and other critters at bay?  Essential oils are one component of such deterrents, with many being all-organic and biodegradable. Bobbex® has proven effective, as has Repels All®.  Milorganite can sprinkled along beds, even atop the snow, to present deer with an unpleasant odor.  • Deer netting and other physical barriers can offer additional control. Trunk guards fashioned from hardware cloth are installed around trunks to prevent rodents from nibbling on bark, girdling trunks in the process.  Long-term planning, when selecting landscape specimens, will lead wise gardeners to choose deer-resistant plants.

How best to attract wildlife, birds in particular?  Birdhouses ~ Mounted now, they'll serve as winter shelter during inclement weather.  Come spring, non-migratory backyard birds will stake their claim on such housing, long before returning birds make a decision.  Bird Roosts ~ These are designed as shelter, from snow, rain and cold winds.  Autumn is a fine time to mount these shelters, which are used year 'round.  Bird Feeders ~ Fall is an ideal time to establish feeding stations, so birds become familiar with new locations and new feeders, before winter.  So many choices - feeders to exclude large, greedy birds, to foil squirrels or to accommodate all birds, including the ground-feeding species.  And, looking ahead to the holidays, all make thoughtful gifts for backyard birders.

How do I winterize roses?  The best way to get hybrid roses through the New England winter, is to plant them properly, with the bud union 1½ - 2” below the soil surface. Beyond this, after the ground freezes, a 3-4” layer of salt marsh hay will help to minimize the freeze/thaw cycle from effecting the crown. If not planted properly (graft is above the soil), place a 3-4” layer of bark mulch around the base and across the crown, followed by the hay mulch. Be sure to remove these layers in mid to late March, to eliminate excess moisture around that sensitive crown, as well as conditions conducive to stem canker. Leave all branches intact, tying them, if necessary, to prevent winter damage.  Spray the bare canes with anti-desiccant to halt moisture loss.  Do not prune roses after early September. This allows the canes to properly harden-off before winter. Prune as needed in spring. Other than lime,  greensand or gypsum (rock phosphate & kelp meal are OK during Oct/Nov.), no feeding until early spring.

Feed the landscape?
  October & November are ideal for application of balanced, organic fertilizers on everything but roses and perennials, providing stored energy for an early growth flush next spring. Although moderate December soil temperatures persist, a complete fertilizer like Plant-tone, Holly-tone or Tree-tone applied now would not be fully utilized, with much of it being leached away.  Come spring, the addition of greensand, kelp meal and rock phosphate to your complete, organic fertilization will further stimulate growth.  Even in October & November, these latter three can be applied to roses and perennials, without fear of impacting hardiness.

Is lawn care over for the season?  Not necessarily.  Gypsum to improve drainage and lime to raise the pH are applied in late fall and are still effective at this point.  Reminder: Keep lawns free of fallen leaves and the final cut of the season should be just under 2 inches to lessen the incidence of diseases like powdery mildew and snow mold. Thin lawn?  Look into the possibility of frost-seeding.

What is dormant season spraying?  Applications of horticultural oil and/or copper (Liqui-Cop) will help keep various insects and diseases from overwintering… apply in November at 45º. Repeat in March, at same temps, for a further preventative measure. If December provides moderating temperatures, you may still be able to apply a dormant season application.

Why is garden gypsum important in fall?  Any lawn or garden areas bordering roadways are subject to severe damage from road salt.  This fall, apply a preventative application of garden gypsum, at 10-15# per 100 square feet. Gypsum works in two ways... it ameliorates salt damage associated with road salt (and dog urine, as well) and keeps working its way through the soil, improving drainage... a better drained soil allows the salt residue to pass to deeper levels, below where root systems will be negatively impacted by salt.  (In addition: Pelletized lime, at 5-10# per 100 sq.ft., will help alleviate the acidity associated with road salt.) The second, curative application of gypsum, is spread next spring (same rate) after cleaning these roadside areas of sand and salt.  And don’t forget that gypsum, applied to gardens and lawns spring and fall, will greatly improve drainage.

What about empty garden beds?  Turn chopped leaves and seaweed into fallow flower or vegetable beds. These will break down, over winter, adding to soil fertility by next spring.  Other organics like cow manure, peat humus and compost, will also add valuable microbes to the soil, when tilled in now.  And, remember to add in the greensand, lime and garden gypsum.  Apply balanced fertilizer and rock phosphate next spring as you prep empty beds prior to planting.

Tips for success with indoor plants and holiday plants this winter? Away from a source of heat, often away from drafty doorways, and provide with extra humidity. Provide adequate light - direct sun versus bright, diffused light for various specimens.  Learn the specific requirements of each member of your indoor plant collection. What is a humidity tray? How to set these up and why are they so important? An over-sized saucer that extends well beyond the pot perimeter, is filled with pebbles and the pot placed atop this.  Keeping a consistent level of water in the bottom of this humidity tray (usually daily) is the best way to create the humidity your plants crave.  As heat rises, it carries the moisture upward to the foliage canopy.  Remember, the colder it is outside, the drier it becomes inside.  Misting foliage is only a temporary solution, with benefits disappearing as moisture evaporates.  Humidity trays offer the better solution.

Winter Moth Control?  Don't forget to change out those sticky bands as female moths become entrapped.  When all activity has ceased (probably early/mid January this year), remove the Tanglefoot coated tree wrap; otherwise, moisture may collect against the tree trunk behind this layer.  For the complete story, read our sidebar... it is permanently posted there for your convenience.  Early to mid-April (depending on the 2013 egg hatch) will find most gardeners beginning a spray program with Thuricide, perhaps preceded by an application of horticultural oil to smother at least some of the overwintered eggs.

This weekly newsletter will resume publication in early February. 
Meanwhile, yours truly will be diligently at work on THE book 
and other matters horticultural... hopefully to the benefit of all. 

I leave you with lots to read and consider as you prepare to 
embark on a new growing season.  I eagerly anticipate our 
spring semester of garden classes and those of you on the 
mailing list will receive early notice.

Thanks for your readership in 2012,
Deb Lambert

Here's to an outstanding season in 2013!

Text/Photos: © Deb Lambert 2012/2013
Newsletter: © DJL/CBI 2012/2013