What’s all the Buzz about?

As summer ends and you are tempted to go out and ‘clean up’ your perennials, keep this in mind!

Here’s a link is to an article with some great photos and information– from a writer on Gardener’s supply website.

All About Yellow Jackets bees and wasps 2017

And more about Bumblebees….





The Secret Life of Soil

This is an article shared by a fellow gardener, and I couldn’t say it better– it is about the importance of feeding the soil, not the plant!  Staying away from pesticides and commercial fertilizers is easy when you have good soil working for you–and this article called ‘The Zoo Beneath our Feet” explains how it all happens!

Instead of dreading fall and all the leaves you have to deal with, rejoice–  This is more organic material for your soil!


Plants that like it HOT and DRY

There are some plants that just LOVE to be hot (FULL sun!) and DRY!  With more emphasis on sustainable gardening, here are a couple plants to add to that list:

Butterfly weedButterfly weed asclepias tuberosa

LavenderLavender phenomenal

ONCE ESTABLISHED (after the first year which does require paying attention and watering regularly!), these can almost be neglected!  Both make great cut flowers, are good pollinators, and the butterfly weed is actually in the milkweed family so it is a host plant for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies!!

In West Michigan, certain lavenders do better than others.  There are basically three kinds– English, French, and hybrids.  I will be posting more info soon about lavender!

Here is the easy way to get rid of whiteflies organically!  You can buy these traps already made, but this the ‘recipe’ for the DIY gardener:

Take a sturdy piece of plastic or thick cardboard, cut in a rectangle about 3×5″, punch a hole near the top to hang from a post, paint both sides with bright yellow paint (that is the color that attracts whiteflies) and then coat each side with a product called ‘tanglefoot’ (check garden center!).  Place all around in garden so that the sticky card is just above the plants.  As they get used, replace with fresh cards.

Have a great time gardening!!

#butterflygardening #sustainablegardening #monarchbutterfly #organicpestcontrol #whiteflycontrol


Dog Days of Summer– hot picks!

rudbeckia fulgida blkeye susan  Rudbeckia fulgida (black eyed Susan)– just one of many varieties.

 Good in same conditions as milkweed (also many varieties):

                            Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)

This is the time of year that the hot temps can begin to take a toll on our flowerbeds.

A recent show on the Pledge we talked about what to plant to attract good bugs, the monarch diet, and some other gardening tips.

Did you know that The ONLY thing monarch caterpillars will eat is MILKWEED!  So, many people have been helping out by planting one or more varieties of milkweed to provide food for these baby monarchs.

The FlowerCoach is on the Pledge news hour around 7:45 a.m. –every Thursday morning (96.5, Pledge) with Carrie Davis– click on the link to hear the one from July 20!





Tape from show on July 27, 2017 – the FlowerCoach on the Parker and Davis Show (7:45 Thursday mornings on the Pledge, 96.5)

ligularia britt marie crawford  ajuga choc chip foliage

One of my Favorite combinations for (moist) shade, Ligularia and Ajuga reptans  

Ligularia; large dark green leaves w/ purple undersides… late summer yellow daisy like blooms!  Ligularia plants will attract butterflies, but are known to be DEER RESISTANT!

Ligularia (Ligularia stenocephala ‘The Rocket’)ligularia_the_rocket_lg_0
lig-yew-LAR-ee-ah sten-oh-SEF-ah-lah
Genus: Ligularia
The aptly named ‘The Rocket’ is virtually indestructible if sited in damp shade. In spring, toothed green foliage unfurls to form an attractive mound. Flowering begins in midsummer when stalks packed with little buds rise up to 4 feet tall. Little golden daisies, opening from bottom to top, shoot upward like rockets to the sky.
Noteworthy Characteristics: Grows very slowly. Has large leaves.
Care: Ligularias like partial shade and deep, fertile, damp soil. Don’t let them dry out between waterings.
Propagation: Divide clumps in spring or after flowering.
Problems:  Slugs and snails.


Height 3 ft. to 6 ft. x Spread 3 ft. to 6 ft.
Growth Habit -Clumps; Slow Grower
Full Sun to Part Shade
Medium Moisture–don’t let them dry out.
Showy Flowers, Showy Foliage
Bloom Time Early Fall, Early Summer, Fall, Late Summer, Summer
Flower Color, Primrose Yellow
 In terms of soil conditions, working some humus into the soil will help them. They are good wet area plants; in fact, many growers state that these shade perennials get pretty thirsty..(this only happens to mine during times of extreme heat and drought.)

To propagate you can divide in early spring.

Other Types of Ligularia:

Ligularia dentata is sometimes referred to as the “bigleaf ligularia,” because this type has relatively big leaves.

Ligularia dentata Britt marie crawfard  Britt Marie Crawford

But so does another type, Ligularia macrophylla;Ligularia macrophylla big leaf in fact, the specific epithet for the latter translates literally as “bigleaf.”

King Kong: Leaves are 16 inches across and start dark purple-black and transition to burgundy as the plant’s yellow-orange flowers appear. Quite large! Height is 3 to 4 feet and a spacing of 36 to 42 inches is recommended.

King-Kong ligularia

AJUGA— many varieties!  They vary in leaf color, size, flower color and size!

ajuga_reptans_black_scallop_lg Black Scallop

ajugaburgundyglow_1 Burgundy Glow

ajuga chocolate chip
Ajuga Chocolate Chip

ajuga choc chip foliageAjuga Chocolate Chip

ajuga blueberry muffin  Blueberry Muffin

Catlin's Gian Ajuga reptans Catlin’s giant–bigger leaf, taller and bigger flower!

It is suggested that you contain Ajuga by using a shovel or spade to edge the borders of the territory boundary allocated to it twice annually, once in spring and again around the middle of summer.

There is no need for alarm as this plant does not spread rapidly; rather it will spread at a slow and steady rate.

Be warned that you must not plant this next to a lawn as grass cannot compete with this plant for and will be quickly overrun, leaving you with an Ajuga lawn instead of a grass lawn.

Ajuga plants need plenty of water if you want them to flower, even when growing in the shade. Note that if trees are nearby, because these plants like shade, the tree roots will leach the water that this plant requires and so stunt its growth. However once this plant is properly established it rarely has problems. Other than this Ajuga require little care. Just plant Ajuga seeds, care for the plants for a few weeks until they are established, and they will maintain themselves.

It is important to note that while Ajuga provides ground cover it cannot and must not be walked on. This is especially important as there are actually companies that claim that the Ajuga seeds that they sell grow into beds that can be walked on. This is highly unlikely. Ajuga might survive being walked over very occasionally, but regular foot traffic will definitely damage the beds, kill the plants, or at the very least make them look very unattractive.

The flowers are usually dark blue in color, and have a dense blooming time in early spring. They also bloom occasionally all through the warmer months.

Ajuga is best propagated in spring but can be propagated by division any time during the growing season. The plant must be divided and then replanted at once. If this gardening shade flower becomes too dense with little air circulation there is a danger of crown rot resulting in bare patches. Division will keep this to a minimum.

One benefit to the density is that it blocks out weeds.

A humus rich, moist soil is best, good air circulation is a must, and don’t let the roots stand in water.



Aphids and mites and thrips, OH MY!

UH OH.  What is attacking my flowers????  Before you panic, take a minute to see what you are dealing with.  Here we have examples of aphids, mites and thrips.  There are a million more pictures available on the internet and remember that some of these pests are SO tiny that you need a super powerful magnifying glass to see them!

aphid dappled leafspider mite leaf speckled.jpgThrips on back of leaf.jpg

man w mask spraying chemicals  This guy is declaring war on bugs, but wow, this must be some pretty toxic stuff he is using.  At least he is wearing SOME protective clothing, but personally I would rather be using something that isn’t going to cause permanent lung damage.

spraying organic spray

Obviously this gardener does not have a big garden or a huge infestation, as he is using a hand sprayer.  There are a lot of remedies out there for the do-it-yourselfer who wants to save money and be more environmentally responsible.  Homemade “insecticidal soap,” a spray used to kill harmful insects like mites, aphids, thrips, white flies and immature leafhoppers is one way.  The fatty acids in the soap dissolve the insects’ exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate.

Make sure that you are not using dishwashing detergent, which may harm plants and will not work on insects because it doesn’t use fatty acids. You need liquid soap, such as pure CASTILE liquid soap, that does not contain additives (like fragrance, moisturizer and other additional chemicals).

  1.   Choose a clean spray bottleor sprayer for your mixture. If you’re recycling a previously used bottle, make sure it is completely sanitized
  2. . Mix 1 tablespoon of Castile soap per quart of water,or 4 to 5 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water.
  3. .Mix together thoroughly and use immediately. Make sure to evenly coat infected plants, from top to bottom, for best results. It has to come in contact with the insects for it to work.  

Sometimes plants will negatively react to insecticidal soaps. You may want to test your spray on just a few leaves at first. If you see any signs of spotting, withering or browning of the leaves, stop use. You can try to adjust the recipe or turn to a new product. Some Gardeners will add further ingredients to obtain desired results, such as cooking oil, garlic and vinegar. If soap and water do not seem to be working, research how to properly add these additional ingredients to help increase chances of success.

Lastly, hard water will reduce the soap’s effectiveness. If you have hard water, try making your spray with bottled water instead.


My personal reality:  I have SO many flowers that this approach, even with a pressurized sprayer is something I don’t have time for…sometimes I just have to go outside and plead with the ‘good bugs’ to get busy and do their job!  This has been a rough summer so far, and the bad bugs seem to be ahead at this point, but if you don’t look real close it still looks pretty!

backyard summer 2016 (16)
I think my trusty friend Boots is looking for bugs on the ground


What do you mean it’s not pronounced like that?

agastache blue fortune
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ 

I always thought Agastache was pronounced Ag-a-stash-ee.  Well, I did live down south during my formative gardening years–maybe that is how they say it there, or maybe no one bothered to correct me.  So NOW I am told that the correct way is ‘Ag-a-stack-ee’.  I like my way better, but evidently I stand corrected.

Above is a picture of Blue Fortune Agastache and below is Becky Shasta Daisy, which are both mentioned in the attached 3 minute FlowerCoach segment from July 13 on 96.5 FM (every Thursday at 7:45 am– The Pledge).

leucanthemum_x_superbum_becky  “He loves me, he loves me not”…..remember that?

What’s NOT to love about beautiful Shasta Daisy ‘Becky’???

Organic control of Whiteflies

If you see tiny whiteflies everywhere in your garden, especially when you brush up against a plant, then it is time to create your plan of attack!  They will attack hundreds of kinds of plants, sucking the juices out of the leaves, spreading viruses and other diseases as they go, and their excretions make plants sticky, moldy and extremely unattractive.  Two methods you can try:

  1.  Make a spray , this was developed by the USDA:  Add 1 Tablespoon of insecticidal soap to 1 cup vegetable oil (peanut, safflower, corn, soybean or sunflower).  SHAKE well, then add 1-2 teaspoons of this mix to 1 cup water.  Spray the diluted solution directly onto the insects every 7-10 days until you get the problem under control.  Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves because the solution has to come in contact with the insects to be effective.  Be careful because this could burn the tender leaves of certain plants (squash, cabbage, etc.0 and be sure to wash vegetables well at harvest to resudues left.
  2. Garlic spray.  Puree a couple cloves of garlic with a pint of water in a blender.  STRAIN and spray.
  3. Get some beneficial insects- tiny wasps that parasitize whiteflies, or lacewings and ladybugs will eat them.  Let your herbs flower to attract these.
  4. Sticky traps- buy them online from a variety of sources, or make them yourself! Cut rectangular pieces (about 3×4″) of plastic or durable ccardboard.  Drill a hole at one side for hanging or putting on stick.  Paint surface of both sides bright lemon yellow, the color that attracts whiteflies.  When it is dry, coat the pieces with an insect-trapping adhesive such as Tanglefoot, which you should find in any garden supply store.  Position them around your garden a few inches above the plants..the more the better.  Here’s more info:
  5. Organic Neem Oil can be sprayed on vegetables, fruit trees and flowers to kill eggs, larvae and adults. Mix 1 oz/ gallon of water and spray all leaf surfaces (including the undersides of leaves) until completely wet.
  6. Organic horticultural oil will kill them at all stages. Note: Ants feed on the honeydew that sucking insects produce and will protect these pests from their natural enemies. An application of Tanglefoot Pest Barrier to the stalks of roses and other woody plants will help get rid of ants.

whiteflies-on leaf

Can you tell the difference?


Well, if you are stumped, it’s no wonder.  The one on the left is tall meadow rue (with columbine-like foliage), and the right picture is a small early columbine.  The columbine plants often get quite ‘bunched up’ foliage with the burst of flowers in the middle.  The meadow rue grows much taller and has a different type of flower.  Both are great pollinators.  Meadow rue needs shade and the columbine can grow in sun or shade.

More info  on the Meadow rue….meadow rue articlefinegardening2011 (2)