Garden Questions of the Week
“Are the ornamental cabbage and kale planted in the fall, edible?” -These are basically the same as the ones grown in the vegetable garden, but have been bred for thicker leaves with showier white to pink to reddish purple colors as the temperatures get cooler. They’re technically all kales, with the rounded leafed selections referred to as ornamental cabbage. Planted as an annual, they are biennial and if they make it thru the winter, actually flower in the spring. Great foliage, great late fall colors, and yes, the leaves are edible, but mostly used as a garnish.
“How long will pansy flowers last?” -If the winter weather is mild, we’ve seen pansies flower all fall, of and on in the winter, and actually continue to flower in the spring. But, I’d say don’t count on it. Plant them for fall colors, and if they make it thru the winter, it’s a bonus! By the way, pansy flowers are also very edible.
“Are garden mums planted in the fall, hardy?” -Unfortunately, many of the selections of mums sold in the fall are sold for their spectacular colors and not so much for their hardiness. Thus the name ‘garden mums’ not ‘hardy mums’. So consider them tender perennials or annuals and if they do come back, it’s a plus. BUT, there are new kids on the block that are showing great winter hardiness – they’re Mammoth Mums. Developed in Minnesota, these large growing hardy mums are coming back each year, and bringing back the ‘perennial’ in mums. By the way, Mammoth mums get big – 3 feet high and 4 feet wide – so give them room to grow. And believe it or not, even mum flowers are edible!
“I saw your segment talking about willows in a bush form. What were they again?” – Okay, you all know this one – Pussy Willow! It’s a large shrub and sometimes a small ornamental tree – 10-12 feet tall – and of course the fuzzy gray catkins in the spring. There is Dwarf Arctic Blue Willow – a finely branched shrub – small narrow grayish leaves with purplish stems – grows 5-6 feet tall and wide – and like a willow, tolerates wet soils but grows nicely in normal soils. And this is one of my favorites – love the name -Hakuro Nishiki.- gets 6-8 feet tall (have seen them taller) – long arching branches and covered with variegated pink and white foliage. Say it – “Hakuro Nishiki”.
“We’re looking for large growing shrubs for a screen planting that we would also like to be evergreen. Any suggestions?” -For semi to evergreen shrubs in a leafy plant (not needles), take a look at the viburnums – Viburnum burkwood. – 6-10 feet tall – pinkish white flowers fragrant flowers in spring – wonderful semi to evergreen foliage. Viburnum Prague – again 6-10 feet tall – creamy white flowers in spring – red to black edible berries – small glossy semi evergreen foliage. Viburnum Alleghany – 10 feet plus in height – creamy white flowers – red to black berries – dark green leathery semi to evergreen foliage. All great plants and great for screening.
“We need some evergreen screening but our yard is not all that large. Pines and spruce will get too big. What else can you recommend?” – For really small tight areas, look at Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Slow grower, 5-10 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Also look at Taxus Hicksi, a columnar Japanese yew – been around forever- sun or shade – tough, durable and basically maintained at any size. A great solid narrow evergreen screen! For a little larger evergreen screen consider the upright junipers like Hetz Columnaris, Spearmint, Iowa, Perfecta – all grow around 10-15 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide, and fairly quickly. If you like blue green needles, consider Juniper Blue Point or Juniper Blue Haven – again 10 feet plus in height and narrow in width. And don’t forget Pyramidal arborvitae – Emerald Green Arborvitae has become one of the most popular – 10-12 feet high yet staying 3-4 feet wide. And there’s an arborvitae for an upright evergreen with a little more size but still not over powering – Spring Grove Arborvitae. Developed at our own Spring Grove Cemetery, this fast growing evergreen gets 20-25 feet tall but only 8-10 feet wide, max! Fast, tall but not wide, and guess what – showing great deer resistance as well!