Episode 36 – The best plants to give Mom, and a rose unlike any other

Welcome! If you’re here wondering why our radio show on WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids isn’t on at it’s usual time of 9am Saturdays, that’s because the Riverbank Run is being broadcast instead. Tune in at 5pm ET today to hear this week’s show, or catch us now on YouTube or at your favorite podcast platform. 

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Make Mom’s May! Every year, kids pick bouquets of dandelions or lilacs for Mom, but whatever species you pick for her, you “rose” to the occasion.

Mother’s Day is a big deal, and expected spending has gone up nearly every year since 2012, even during the prime of the pandemic. Throw in inflation numbers, and the figures become even more significant. The big three flower holidays are Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. In northern areas, Mother’s Day coincides with the last frost, give or take a week, with no guarantees, causing a “flower frenzy” of purchases of things floral.

As someone with experience in the garden center industry, I can attest that Mother’s Day weekend is huge for hanging basket sales. Again, the hanging basket thing is critical. Invest in some baskets and “upsize” the common 10″ baskets. Long live the hanging basket – so long as they don’t fizzle with the fireworks after July 4.

Utilizing the thriller, filler, spiller concept will help you create well-balanced and full upright patio containers. However, it doesn’t work for hanging baskets since thrillers tend to be too tall for them. Hanging baskets can be designed using a mixture of spillers and fillers or just spillers. Some spillers will also function as fillers. For instance, many Supertunia® petunias have enough height to function as a filler but also spill over the edge of the pot, acting as a spiller. Many plants could fit two different categories depending on the other plants used in the combination.

Hydrangeas make a great gift for Mother’s Day, but we should address the forced-into-bloom issue. I have seen this for years with hydrangeas, azaleas, etc. Hardiness? People want to be able to plant them outdoors after blooming.

Quite often, we hear questions similar to the following: “My daughter gave me a beautiful (insert hydrangea or azalea or bulb plant) for Mother’s Day. It was so beautiful I would like to know if I can plant it outside, or should I grow it inside as a houseplant?” These gift plants, known as forced florist plants, that are purchased with foil around the pot are often different from those purchased outside at a nursery. The foil-wrapped plants have usually been grown for a one-time, spectacular show. The plant has been grown specifically to produce many large blooms quickly, quite often at the expense of the future health of the plant.

By the way, those plant covers can “foil” your plans by drowning your plant and producing a bumper crop of fungus gnats.

Edible plants make a great gift! Herbs are great, and a mixed container or a rosemary or lavender plant is ideal, particularly the neatly trimmed topiary specimens. I have seen demand for olive trees, too. Over the past five years, houseplants have increased in popularity as a gift item.

And of course, there’s always gift cards! (Dad joke alert: Don’t spend it all in one place).

Here are some Mom suggestions: orchids, gardenias, callas, mandevilla (known now as dipaledia), hydrangea, clematis, roses, bonsai, anthurium, and the always fabulous bird of paradise.

If I were a Mom, I would want a Let’s Dance hydrangea or a Bloomerang or Scentara lilac from Proven Winners.

Why: Roses are such a natural choice to give Mom on Mother’s Day. We don’t mean cut roses that will last just a week or two, but a living, growing rose plant that she will enjoy for years to come – and think of you every time she sees it. Rose plants are usually in full bloom in the garden center on Mother’s Day, all the better for the oohs and aahs when you give them as a gift. Your favorite garden center almost certainly has a huge selection of roses, so how to pick? We humbly suggest Reminiscent Pink rose, new this year. 

The rose world has changed so dramatically in the past 20-30 years. In the 70s and 80s, they started getting the reputation of being fussy and difficult to grow, requiring spraying and meticulous pruning, and it started to result in a decline of what had always been known as “America’s favorite flower.” Not content to let the objection of their affection slide into obscurity, rose breeders around the world sprung into action and introduced low-maintenance, disease resistant landscape roses, like Knock Out, Flower Carpet, Drift, and Oso Easy. These lived up to their promise: they grew vigorously and bloomed profusely with no special care at all. Even deadheading was a thing of the past! However there was a trade-off: the flowers of these landscape roses were relatively small and normally just had a single ring of petals instead of dozens of them. Plus, something major was noticeably absent: fragrance. 

Fortunately, in the plant breeding world, once you’ve accomplished one breeding goal (in this case, disease resistance), you can start working on adding new goals. Plant breeders have since been working on bringing back the high petal count and sensuous fragrance for years, and we’re delighted to say it’s all here in the Reminiscent series of roses – though today, we’re focusing on Reminiscent Pink. 

Who: All of the Reminiscent roses come to us from Serbia, where a team of female plant breeders are working on bringing back the beautiful roses of the past but with modern day performance. Proven Winners ColorChoice is proud to be the exclusive North American brand for the innovative roses they are creating. The Reminiscent series has three varieties so far, with more to come!

How to grow: Like all roses, Reminiscent Pink needs full sun – that’s at least six hours a day of bright sunshine. Not only will this ensure the best blooming, it also improves disease resistance, keeping the foliage clean and healthy. These roses will bloom all summer without deadheading, though if you prefer the look of a deadheaded rose, you can certainly do that. They are also self-cleaning, which means that as the blooms age, the petals fall of instead of making an unsightly clump that remains on the plant. For best flowering, fertilize with a rose fertilizer from early spring through late July. It’s not imperative, but will make a noticeable difference. 

As for pruning, you should prune your Reminiscent Pink rose in early spring, just as you see the new growth begin to emerge on the stems. Why? Because pruning roses makes them set flower buds on the entire plant instead of just up at the tips. You’ll get a sturdier plant, a more landscape-worthy habit, and lots more flowers all over the plant. Pruning doesn’t have to be fussy or time-consuming: just cut back to where a large, thick bud is emerging and let the magic to happen. 

If you’d like to add Reminiscent Pink rose – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, in a container or in the ground, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

Yes, you can. Garlic is generally best planted in late fall, which lets it grow roots for several weeks and get established before winter, so it’s ready to grow in spring. It can be planted in spring as well, but try to do it as early as possible. Garlic begins forming bulbs once days have about 13 hours of daylight, and particularly if you live in a cooler climate, you don’t want to miss any of that time. Garlic is harvested once its foliage begins to yellow, usually early-mid July here in Michigan. Whenever you see that happen, dig up one head and check its size. If its small, don’t dig the rest of your crop – just leave it in place and harvest the following summer. 

Rooting hormone and mycorrhizae are definitely not the same thing. Even though both are targeted at improving root growth, they are completely different in composition and intent.

Rooting hormone is a concentrated version of a naturally occurring plant hormone, most commonly IBA (indole-3-butyric acid) but sometimes auxin as well, or instead. Typically sold as a powder (or occasionally as a liquid dip), coating the end of a cutting with rooting hormone can assist in rapid root development. It’s not typically needed for propagating things like houseplants and succulents, but is beneficial for woody plants and anything that’s otherwise difficult to root quickly or well. 

Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that occur naturally in the soil. They either encircle a plant root (ectomycorrhizae) or grow directly into it (endomycorrhizae), or a combination of both (ectoendomycorrhizae). Whichever their relationship with the plant root is, they make the root take up water and nutrients more efficiently, enhance overall plant health and vigor. In fact, the word “mycorrhizae” literally translates from Greek as “fungus root.” If you visit your local garden center, you’re sure to see all sorts of products that include mycorrhizae, from potting mix to starter fertilizers to growth stimulants to simple packets full of them you can add to your soil. While using these won’t cause any harm, they aren’t necessarily going to do what they claim. Here’s why: as fungi, mycorrhizae are living things, and as such, they need specific conditions in order to thrive. That means when it comes to native soil (potting mix is a different story), it’s probably already supporting all the mycorrhizae it can, along with the right species of mycorrhizae for the type of soil, moisture level, and climate. So more mycorrhizae are unlikely to survive, either because the conditions aren’t right for them to, or they can’t outcompete the species that are already present and thriving. 

The best way to manage slugs is to stop them before they get established, and that means putting out bait in February/March, when their eggs begin to hatch. By managing them when they are very young, you will use a lot less bait and get better control. While it’s too late to do this this season, definitely mark it on your calendar for next year! In the meantime, we recommend two methods you can use now to manage them: one, place a piece of wood – a cedar shake or shingle is ideal in both shape, size, and texture – into the garden in the evening. The next morning, the slugs will congregate under it as the sun rises and can be easily scraped off into the trash or a bucket of soapy water. Two, use beer as bait –  fill a tuna can or something similar with beer, nestle it in the soil so that its rim is flush with the soil surface, dump out the next morning, and repeat. Rick also recommends removing the lower leaves of things like hostas so that the ground is exposed between plants. This eliminates the canopy of safety that would otherwise provide safe passage for the slugs. 

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above.

Branching News - Rick

Rick is just back from a trip to the Netherlands, and was in time for peak tulip bloom. He made a video of his adventure that you can watch here

To see tulips here in the US, head to Washington State’s Skagit Valley. But mind the drama, as two competing tulip farms, Tulip Town and Tulip Valley Farms, feud over booming business in spring and fall. 

Love plants and love reading? This fun article pairs your favorite type of houseplant with a genre of literature

Nearly 200 people from around the world have applied for jobs at a zoo to wear bird costumes as part of official seagull-scaring duties. Blackpool Zoo in Lancashire advertised after bosses said peckish pests had been persistently stealing food from visitors and animal enclosures. The zoo said people had applied for the roles from as far as Australia, India, Uganda and war-torn Ukraine. Applicants have even sent in videos of themselves already dressed as birds.

There’s an old expression that when something is worth very little money, a person might call the price “merely birdseed.” Not any longer. Retailers and producers report that bird seed prices are “sky high” across the country. Factors including the war in Ukraine, increased shipping and packaging costs and a previous dry growing season for key birdseed ingredients are all making it more expensive to feed the birds. For a cost-effective alternative, fill your garden with native plants and watch the birds forage in your garden. 

The average homeowner encountered about four surprises or unexpected costs within the first year of homeownership, spending around $3,600 to address them

In a forest in southern Chile, a giant cypress tree has survived for thousands of years and is in the process of being recognized as the oldest in the world. Known as the “Great Grandfather,” the trunk of this tree measuring four meters (13 feet) in diameter and 28 meters tall is also believed to contain scientific information that could shed light on how the planet has adapted to climatic changes. Believed to be more than 5,000 years old, it is on the brink of replacing Methuselah, a 4,850-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine found in California in the United States, as the oldest tree on the planet.

“It’s a survivor, there are no others that have had the opportunity to live so long,” said Antonio Lara, a researcher at Austral University and Chile’s center for climate science and resilience, who is part of the team measuring the tree’s age.