Monday, October 29, 2012

Chrysanthemum Show - Centennial Greenhouse Conservatory

There is nothing that really excites me about autumn transitioning into winter. It's usually a dull, stormy time of season - when trees strip bare of leaves and I dreadingly pull out long-johns from my dresser.  However, late October brings around the annual late autumn Chrysanthemum Show at Centennial Greenhouse and Conservatory. A little oasis, tucked in in the heart of Etobicoke (Toronto).

Here, I am fortunate to witness the painstaking work and effort put into growing these fantastic Japanese Chrysanthemums from cuttings and seed. Credit goes to: Stanley Roszak who grew the chrysanthemums; Donna and Mertyl who helped with the display. They all work as growers at Centennial Greenhouses and are colleagues of mine. They deserve much praise for their efforts. Well done!  It looks amazing!

A little cute fella, welcoming you to the show. :)

This one is by far my favourite. Spanning 6 inches across.

Not completely unfurled was at least the size of a dinner plate!

Wish my camera would of captured this better. 3 concentric hearts are joined together. Stan designed this himself. Wonderful!

The show runs from October 27, 2012 - November 25, 2012! Please go and see the flowers for yourself!

(Located: Off Rathburn, 151 Elmcrest Road. Open free to the Public)

Here is web information pertaining to other events and what grows under glass at Centennial Greenhouse.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Euonymus Crown Gall - Agrobacterium tumefaciens

Many a time, I come across crown gall on Euonymus. Never, have I seen it this large. Galls can form on several plant hosts. A gall is a plant tissue growth or "tumor" caused by a bacterium infection. Here, it's been cut away from the parent plant in order to take a clear photo of its size. The parent plant: Euonymus fortunei "Sarcoxie".

The cause of this gall is a bacterium known as: Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Being soil-borne it enters the plant through wounds in the bark.  I find the areas where galls occur most tend to be overlapping and crossed over stems that crack from sheer weight of heavy growth or over-crowded growth. This bacteria is unusual in that it transfers part of its genetic material to the plant upon infection. It's quite complicated, but an absolutely fascinating process in forming the gall. The bacterium induces tumor like genetic material into the host plant, the plant then responds growing this form of tissue (gall) as a response to the genetic material invading the host.  A type of plant hormone is produced when the host plant is infected by Agrobacterium tumefaciens. These "hormones" cause rapid cell division and distort stems or root tissue. Where the gall situates itself is where obvious trauma or wounds have appeared on the host plant prior to infection. These galls can range in size of a small nut to the one depicted in this blog post! So amazing, eh?

This one is about the size of a small cantaloupe, measuring about 16cm in diameter. 
Galls don't kill off the host plant. But they do interfere and inhibit normal plant processes. Vascular flow; (sap) water and nutrient transport is inhibited where galls form. This can weaken the overall health of the plant, especially if there is more than one gall on the host plant. Galls are usually situated on stems or trunk at the crown - base of the plant, closest to roots.


Because this bacterium is soil-borne, the main element of control is removing the gall and sanitizing secateurs after cuttings - where gall removal took place. I recommend cutting gall formed branches back to the main stem if possible. You want the wounds you inflict from cutting the infected area to be made well above the crown of the plant - avoiding close proximity to the soil. If you have wounds from removing stems close to the soil level, reinfection of the bacterium seems obvious to me. Yet, sometimes this is unavoidable. I try to follow the branching network where the gall is attached, to an area well above the crown. If the gall is on the upper portion of the plant, cut the stem at least 10-12 inches below where the gall was attached.

Please disinfect your pruners (secateurs) in a (1/10 ratio) solution (of bleach to water) after each cut. This prevents you from spreading the bacterium around to other hosts.

After gall removal, help reinvigorate your plant, by adding well rotted compost around the crown. Thin out over-crowded areas with routine pruning. Irrigate during drought periods and give a little extra TLC to bring the host plant back to health.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites

Photo from:
 Every once in a while, I come across a book that is a true resource and "keeper".  The University of Minnesota (Edited by Mary Meyer, Deb Brown and Mike Zins, Extension Horticulturists, University of Minnesota) have drafted a fantastic book called The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites; outlining several plants for tough situations in the garden.

I have not seen this book first hand, apart from the access available on the web.(Chapters are available in PDF format here). I plan to order one straight away.

As stated on their site, these are some of the topics listed:

Inside you will find…

  • What can I plant under a black walnut?
  • What will grow in alkaline soil?
  • What is a good small tree for a boulevard?
  • What tree is good for my compacted soil?
  • What will grow in dry shade, under trees?

Just thought I would pass along its comprehensive content and give them a shout out - "well done!" Thanks University of Minnesota and the Master Gardeners!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Perennial Late Bloomers

Aside from the ordinary Chrysanthemum and Sedum - here are a few of my favourite perennial "late bloomers" that give flower in the midst of late autumn - tolerating light frosts and cooler day-time temperatures.

Eupatorium rugosum "Chocolate"

Eupatorium rugosum "Chocolate" (Chocolate Boneset Joe Pie Weed) found here in my garden - is one of my fav's. Its white flowers just brighten my shaded fence-line. Growing in a fair amount of shade, it's "chocolate" foliage is more bronze than burgundy - it's hard not to notice its lovely white wispy flowers contrasting against deep bronze leaves when most perennials are starting to go dormant.

Nipponanthemum nipponicum

Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Nippon Daisy) rounds the autumn off with an extraordinary daisy display. Its dense foliage and habit acts much like a shrub. Standing 3 to 4 feet in height, it commands attention. Foliage is sturdy, and evergreen in a sense - tolerating several frosts before it begins to wilt. In the winter, its foliage turns a bronze-brown and is considered an evergreen in warmer zonal areas. Flowers have a 3-4 inch span. Buds are sometimes an inch in diameter.

Tricyrtus hirta

Tricyrtus hirta (Toad Lily): part of the Lily family, but resembling an orchid, the Toad Lily's step ladder leaves and stems stay unnoticed until late September, when flower buds emerge. Standing near 3 feet when about to bloom, it's a great addition to the perennial border.

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica (Japanese Anemone) This has to be my ultimate favourite. It's been in flower since late August and keeps going. Holding its flower stems above deep green, mounding foliage. Great as a cut flower. I love how it hints of white snowy days coming down the pike. Love, love, love!

Phytophthora Bleeding Canker on Birch

I took a double look at this birch tree the other day, only to have my eyes drawn to red sap ooozing out of the trunk.
After heavy rains, the sappy residue is quite rusty red.

Birch (Betula sp) tend to be riddled with pests and disease in their latter life span. I've seen so many things plaguing birches lately. Including: bronze birch borer, stink bug, leafhopper bugs and aphids attacks. It's unfortunate they get so riddled with pests and disease when they are stressed.

Betula's (birch) are only one of many trees that can be infected by Phytophthora cankers. They start with lesions and wounds, either from insect damage, frost cracks, mechanical damage...etc. Usually the cankers develop after the tree has had a season of stress or drought. This summer has been unusually hot and dry, so this didn't come as a surprise.

Left untreated, the vascular flow of the tree will be inhibited, further stressing and weakening the tree.

The spores that cause the cankers germinate when water from puddles near the base of the tree splash onto wounded areas of the bark. This is evident, since the lesions are so close to the base of the trunk. Phytophthora spores thrive in wet soil conditions, where water puddles. Under this birch, there is a gravel path along one side, and when irrigated, water pools. There is frequent traffic on this path, which has compacted the soil beneath.

Treatment: Thankfully, trees can seal off wounds by compartmentally growing new rings of growth over the lesions. This takes time and several cultural measures need to be practiced in order to manage this disease.

A balance of moisture is necessary. Too much or little moisture plays a significant role with this disease.  Birch trees like moist, well drained soils. Where birch trees grow in drought laden areas, the cankers are more common.  However, if provided with adequate soaking and proper drainage of the root zone during dry periods, the trees can overcome the disease.  In drought periods, soak the area to insure moisture penetrats down to at least 6 inches below the soil surface.

Aeration of the soil around the tree's drip-line will help moisture penetrate down to deeper roots. Alleviate soil compaction by aerating the soil. Take a gardeners fork and poke holes around the drip line of the tree, after a good rain fall.   Over time, this provides more drainage, avoiding puddles forming too close to the base of the tree.   In addition, provide several inches of composted bark mulch or a ground cover around the tree's drip-line. This prevents water from evaporating during the heat of the summer.

Avoid any heavy walking traffic after aeration and avoid wounding of the trunk or branches.

Following these cultural practices, will help the tree to seal itself and prevent further cankers from developing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Winter Care for Perennial Planter

Ok, my perennial planter is looking rather sad. October's cooler nights and shorter days have taken its toll already. It's time to put my planter to "bed".

Depending upon where you live (zonally), there are ways of winterizing your perennial containers. Folks that have winters in zone's higher than 6 (7,8,9) - you are blessed. Those of us that hover over the mid 5 zonal range or lower (4,3,2), our winters are generally too tough to overwinter perennials in containers.

With my perennial planters, I have a few choices here near the Greater Toronto Area. Depending how close you are to Lake Ontario, (our 5b, 6a zonal situation) and how a severe or mild winter we will have - the overwintering results will vary.

One thing to make sure first before trying to overwinter any pot outdoors is to make sure it's a winter tolerant pot/container. Terra-cotta, some concrete and porous materials will bust from frost expansion. 

To Overwinter:

1.  Place your containers on a south facing brick wall and line them up close to each other. This helps to insulate them and allows for a solid freeze when they are touching each other. The brick wall will radiate heat and keep them slightly warmer than a cold corner. Be sure to keep them well watered.

2. Place your perennial filled containers in the garage. I have placed mine on the side of the garage which butts up against the house. This is the warmest wall and the most safe for overwintering. I usually raise them off the floor with upside down buckets or rubbermaid containers. This just keeps them off of the cold floor and gives them a chance to be well drained before going dormant. I don't water them as often. Only when they are bone dry. Reason: they can rot otherwise.

3. Group several containers together. Water these containers if they remain outside. Most containers freeze and thaw several times before winter arrives. This causes whatever plants are left to desiccate and also the soil left to dry out. I usually soak my containers well before switching the outside water off completely.  I also in a pinch, take snow (without salt) and heap it over my containers when I see they are dry.

4. This is my method this year: I dissemble the perennials and plant them back in the garden to overwinter. I usually do this in late September for sensitive perennials, like some astilbe's. This just prevents certain loss if you are unsure. Come spring you can transplant them back in your pot, knowing they have overwintered well in your garden beds.

Here's how:

Here, I just cut back all the bulky, dry stems from the Rudbeckia and Astilbe. This makes it easier to seperate.

I made 3 sharp cuts into the pot with my trowel and this Astilbe popped out with ease.

These are the 4 perennials I wish to overwinter in my garden. Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldstrum', Hosta 'Hideout', Hosta sieboldii and Astilbe chin. 'Visions in Pink'.

 The finished container:
 I plan on adding a pumpkin in the back and some gourds in the front, but it's still too early. I transplanted the Dusty Miller and Victoria Blue Salvia (making sure I had enough roots and soil so they would move well) and placed them in the back, while planting two Kale I had growing in my backyard from seed in the foreground.  At least this will carry some more colour until we get some major frosts - until I make an Outdoor Winter Decoration.

The 4 perennials, I tucked back into areas of my backyard and watered them well. They will pop back up in spring to either be part of my perennial planter again, or moved to their new home elsewhere.

One sure perennial that seems to winter over, no matter how severe the winter - is my Lamium. They are tough as nails. I will leave both types of Lamium in my container and I am sure I will see their return in the spring again.

Until then....

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