Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Dear Friends, 

Deb in the beautiful display garden
The month of May has finally arrived and as we get closer to the warm summer months, I'd like to invite  you to take some time to become aware of your surroundings and what you would like to see there.
Are there birds, bees, or butterflies you would like to attract and feed?  Maybe you would like to plant a few different herbs and vegetables. Whatever it may be, I hope you find peace.

Let us know how we can help.

Warm Regards,
I remember my mother's prayers
and they have always followed me.   
They have clung to me all my life.
  ~Abraham Lincoln 
I love my mother  
as the trees love water and sunshine -  
she helps me grow, prosper,  
and reach great heights.   

~Terri Guillemets

Rose Care: Please pass the Salt.

When I heard about amending soil around rosebushes with Epsom salt, I was a little surprised. I have used many home remedies for roses. Banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and soapy water all can benefit your roses and banish pests and diseases. So began a brief exploration into Epsom salts.
If used as directed, Epsom salts are said to make plants stronger, produce lusher foliage, bigger blooms and encourage roses to send out new canes (branches) low on the bush. Caution: Salts in the wrong quantity can be lethal for many garden plants. Epsom salts are naturally occurring minerals known as magnesium sulfate which were first found in Epsom, France.  Cartons of Epsom salt are often located in drug stores and groceries in the same areas as laxatives or the sore muscle potions (a clue to some of their other uses).
There are probably as many ways to care for roses as there are recipes for Banana Bread. I have gathered a small selection of “recipes” your rosebushes. Please only select one method. The amounts of Epsom salt are intended for average to large sized plants. If your Roses are minis or small bushes, use just ¼ to 1/3 of the measurements. If you are unsure, it is recommended to test your soil before amended it.
  • Simply mix a handful of Epsom salts at planting time; OR
  • Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of Epsom Salt about 2 inches from the base of your rose bush; OR

  • Two tablespoons dissolved in a gallon of water added next to the roots, being careful not to wet the foliage; OR 

  • Just 3/4 cup of Epsom salts mixed in with the dirt around your roses each spring, then water in well; OR

  • Martha Stewart recommends giving each rose bush 1 tsp. of Epsom salts for every foot of their height.
  • Depending on the size of your plants, sprinkle anywhere from 1 to 4 tbls. around the drip line every spring.
  • To apply to existing rose bushes, either mix ½ cup of Epsom salts into the soil around the rose bush and water well or dissolve ½ cup of the salts in water and use to water the rose bush. Do this in the spring, just as the bids are beginning to open.
  • Jerry Baker's website,, has a recipe that uses cola, beer, molasses, vinegar, ammonia, dish detergent, and epsom salts. One blogger recounted that after feeding her roses this concoction from a watering can, her roses soon produced the biggest and best blooms ever.
A side note: I came across a note that planting parsley alongside your roses will increase their fragrance. I'd love to hear if anyone knows this to be true.

Once you have treated your roses to an Epsom salt treatment, fill a washtub with hot water and a handful of Epsom salts. It's time to treat your tootsies.

For a field trip: When roses are blooming, be sure to visit the Chet Clayton rose garden at URI or the Victorian Rose Garden at Roger Williams Park which is maintained by the Rhode Island Rose Society.

Rose Solutions is a website for Rhode Island Rose Gardeners

Some of the many sources for the information in this article:

*If you have a special interest in roses, cultivate them, or have expertise growing roses, you are a “Rosarian”. As my friend, Leslie, responded when I referred to her as a Master Gardener, “I just like to play in the dirt.”

Renee C Brannigan
I miss thee, my Mother! 
Thy image is still
The deepest 
impressed on my heart.

~Eliza Cook

Reviving Forsythia

This plant available at Woodbridge Greenhouses.
When Forsythia come into bloom, it's amazing to see the variety of shapes and brilliance in just your daily travels. They range from masses of naturally cascading branches covered in thousands of bright yellow flowers, to long-neglected smattering of blossoms, and include painstakingly trimmed yellow forms..

:::sigh::: Time to start lopping.
I have but one Forsythia bush (right pic). Its wispy tendrils sprawl in undergrowth along our driveway. Its decades-long neglect is evident in its overgrown tangle of nearly-bare branches. Rather than taking drastic action, I've done a little research to develop a simple plan of action. 

Although gardeners have differing techniques, most agree that the key to rejuvenating Forsythia blooms is to cut the plant back. They also agree that pruning in the spring allows buds to form on the new growth, creating a brighter display next year.

The debate is over how much to cut. Some advocate “rejuvenation pruning” by cutting entire the shrub back to ankle height and amending the soil (hoping it will come back within a year or two). Other gardeners advise removing either a quarter or a third of the oldest stems each year. Some believe that Forsythia should only be pruned back after their blossoms are dry, others want you to wait until the blooms drop off.

Snapped while driving down Rt. 102 last week.
And the consensus lightly prune forsythia without forcing it to conform to a specific shape. Called “renewal pruning”, it is a great way to breath new life into forlorn forsythia (and other flowering shrubs that produce their best blooms on new wood).

Shaping a forsythia bush into a tight, geometric shape defies its naturally graceful, fireworks-like tendency. Whether you are trimming an unkempt bush or reviving an overly trimmed plant, follow these steps each year.
  1. Cut down the outer ring (perimeter) by 2/3.
  2. Prune the rest of the branches by taking 1/3 off their height.This will encourage new growth that will cascade in all directions.
Pruning Tips:
  • Be sure to take a moment to step back often, and look at the overall effect. 
  • To conceal the cut, trim just above a set of green leaves, and angle your cut slightly away from view.
Forsythia Facts:
  • Deer resistant! (caveat: when deer are hungry enough, they'll eat most anything.)
  • Native to Asia, but non-invasive.
  • No major insects or diseases.
  • Some forsythia may grow 1-2 feet per year before maturing around 8 to 10 feet tall.
  • Plant in full sun for the best and brightest blooms, but will flower lightly in partial shade.
  • Forsythias grow well in a wide range of soils, other than wet, poorly drained soil.
  • Amend the soil in the fall for better blooms and growth.
  • The first freeze forces Forsythia's foliage to fall.
  • Forsythia can spread from underground roots and when lower branches touch rich dirt and develop roots (ground layering). If you wish, you can separate it from the mother plant by cutting it at the roots and transplanting the new plant.
By carefully pruning overgrown forsythia by thirds each year, you will not shock the bush, but you will improve its blooms as you gradually restore its natural shape and splendor.

TLC needed.

Not pleasing to the eye, is it?

How NOT to treat your Forsythia.

Information gathered by Renee C. Brannigan