Archive | May 2014

Edibles in the Ornamental Garden

Reprinted with Permission of the National Garden Board:


Edibles in the
Ornamental Garden

National Garden Bureau’s members are often on the cutting edge of garden trends and one we’ve seen a lot over the past year or so is planting edibles in what was traditionally considered an ornamental garden. In fact, there are famous stories of well-meaning gardeners converting their entire front lawns into an edible garden. If you’re not ready to take that bold move, then at a minimum you can start interplanting some edible plants with your other decorative garden features, either in containers or in-ground, like parsley in a perennial bed, as seen above. We like this article from NGB member Burpee on the subject of growing the two types of plants in harmony. Bonnie Plants hones in on combining ornamentals and edibles in containers in this article.

Ornamental – any flowering or non-flowering plant used for decorative purposes.
Edible – any fruit, vegetable or other plant that can be consumed by humans. (As we know too well, many of our favorite garden plants are edible by numerous critters.)
Companion planting – the close planting of different plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect each other from pests.

Need more reasons to plant vegetables and other edibles in your flower or ornamental garden?

  1. If your garden is small, then you won’t have to sacrifice space dedicated to one crop for the other.
  2. Many of today’s vegetables have beautiful colors and are considered ornamentals as well as edibles.
  3. The popularity of mixed container gardens lends itself perfectly to a mix of edible and ornamental plants.
  4. In some cases, companion planting may be beneficial to the health and vitality of both plants.
 To get the ideas flowing, our members have some new varieties that would work very well together–see possible combos below. For even more ideas, take a look at the NGB Pinterest Board on Edible Landscaping.

Please consider our NGB member companies as authoritative sources for information. Click on direct links to their websites by selecting Member Info from the menu on the left side of our home page. Gardeners looking for seed sources can use the “Shop Our Members” feature at the top of our home page.
Founded in 1920, the National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life through increased use of seeds and plants. 

Let’s Go Garden!

Invicta Gooseberry with Disease? Or Something Entirely Different?

“I saw your post the other day about the gentleman from Bloomer, WI that had issues with his Ben Sarek currants from Jung Seed, and I wanted to ask you about my bare root gooseberry that I received from them via the mail. It was supposed to be an Invicta gooseberry, but the leaves are not the traditional lobed leaf that you see on a gooseberry, and it has some disease. I called the company, and they said that sometimes the first set of leaves that come out are not true leaves, but the second set of leaves will be the true leaves that will look more like a gooseberry. It may also be how they grow here in Maine. I’ve grown other varieties of gooseberry and I’ve never had different types of leaves. And why would something grow different in Maine? That sounds fishy! Or am I wrong? I have since moved the “gooseberry” to a pot and away from the rest of my gooseberries so that it will not give them its disease. Please help!



Hi Janice,

Thank you for your post and for emailing me the photo. This story just makes me shake my head for a number of reasons:

1. True leaves on a woody plant versus non true leaves?!?!? I’m a seasoned old horticulturist that has a degree in botany too. If it is a plant that grows in garden, I know it inside and out. The only thing I can think of here is that the person you spoke to is confusing cotyledons with true leaves? Maybe? I don’t know… Or that when a bud breaks, like on a maple tree, there is a small modified leaf that covers the bud with the leaves and blossom inside and is kind of short near the base and quickly dies? But still, gooseberries do not have those.  Sorry, but I think the customer service person you spoke with didn’t have a clue as to what they were saying, but was trying to sound very educated and like they knew what they were talking about.

2. The leaves above are NOT a gooseberry (Invicta or otherwise) and the future leaves never will be either. This plant is a LILAC!!!

3.  As for the disease, it looks like Edema.  Edema is a problems that occurs under cool, wet conditions when the soil is warmer than the atmosphere. Edema happens when the roots take up more water than the plant loses through transpiration (water loss through pores on the leaf surface called stomata), thus resulting in accumulation of water in the intercellular spaces of the leaf tissue. The excess water accumulation causes the leaf cells to enlarge and expand to a point where they block the stomatal openings.  At some point, the cells become so large that they pop like an overinflated balloon. The remaining damaged cell tissue turns brown and crusty and multiple broken cells for spots like those seen in your photo.


If it were me, I would demand a correct replacement or my money back. If you haven’t already, send this picture in to them. Any horticulturist or plant buyer on staff SHOULD know the difference!


I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pear Scab on Miniature Pear

“We have a miniature Pear tree. The tree bears fruit very well but the fruit always has lots of small black spots. Some one told me that I should use a dormant spray for this problem. Would you give me advice on when to spray. We live in Massachusetts. Thanks much, Jim”


Hi Jim,

Thank you for the question. It sounds like your miniature pear tree is suffering from Pear Scab (Venturia pirina).  Pear scab is a pretty serious disease and can cause serious losses on susceptible pear cultivars. The disease is more of a problem in European countries than here in the America. Although it is sometimes generically called black spot, pear scab resembles its cousin, apple scab (Venturia inaequalis) in nearly all respects. Pear cultivars differ in susceptibility to scab; however, cultivars resistant in one region of the country may not be resistant in another region.

pear-scabThe symptoms of pear scab are similar to apple scab; lesions on leaves and petioles begin as round, brownish spots that eventually become velvety in appearance. Within these lesions conidia (areas of spores) are produced. As the season progresses, small spots can be observed on the lower surface of the leaves. These are usually the result of late spring or early summer infections. Leaf infection of pear is not as common as apple scab on apple leaves.

Scab lesions on fruit occur on the sides of the fruit. As these lesions enlarge, they become dark brown and form large black areas as they coalesce. Lesions on immature fruit are small, circular, velvety spots. Darker, pinpoint spots develop as the fruit matures. Infected fruit often become irregular in shape.

Unlike apple scab, twig infections are common with pear scab. Early in the growing season, lesions on young shoots appear as brown, velvety spots. Later, these lesions become corky, canker-like areas. The following spring, pustules will develop within these overwintered lesions. These pustules produce spores (conidia) that perpetuate the spread of the disease.

The fungus overwinters in leaves on the ground and also as mycelium in infected twigs. Infection of pear foliage and fruit occurs under conditions similar to those required for infection of apple by the apple scab fungus. Ascospores are the major source of primary inoculum. Infection occurs in the spring around the green-tip stage of flower bud development. Ascospores in the overwintered leaves are released as the result of rain and are carried by air currents to young leaves and fruit. Ascospores continue to mature over a six to eight week period.

Conidia are the source of secondary inoculum and are produced in either the primary lesions initiated by ascospores or within pustules on infected twigs. Many secondary cycles may occur over a growing season. The length of the wetting period and temperature required for infection depend on the number of hours of continuous wetness and the temperature during this wetting period. The Mills chart for determining apple scab infection periods along with a leaf wetness recorder or hygrothermograph can provide the information for determining the infection periods for pear scab. Scab lesions may develop in as few as eight days after infection on young leaves and in as many as two months on older leaves. Fruit are also more susceptible when young; however, mature fruit can be infected if the length of wetting period is sufficiently long.

There are a number of cultural controls you can incorporate into your management strategy to combat Pear Scab:

–Sanitation: Remove mummified fruit from trees, and dropped fruit from the ground. These can harbor inoculums of fruit diseases, complicating later chemical control and increasing reliance on pesticides. Some insects are also fostered by allowing dropped fruit to remain, such as the apple maggot.

–Host vigor:  Maintain proper levels of host vigor. Nutrient-deficient trees are more prone to some diseases and insects; conversely, overly vigorous trees are more vulnerable to other pests.

–Pruning:  Improve spray coverage through good pruning practices. Trees should be “opened up” to allow spray and sunlight penetration. Prune out all dead and decaying branches because such wood may harbor insect and diseases. Remove all healthy prunings from the tree because these can be colonized by rot fungi and increase inoculum levels of some rot diseases.  Keep the height of the trees low to enable good coverage.

–Thinning:  It is important to thin fruit properly to provide good disease and insect control. Thin all tree fruits so that the mature fruits will not touch each other. Protectant pesticides cannot effectively cover fruits that touch each other; hence, thisprovides a place for insects and diseases to become established.

–Tree size:  It is almost impossible to produce high-quality fruit in the home orchard on old, large trees because the spray pressure commonly used is inadequate to force the pesticides to the tops of such trees. Therefore, old trees should be replaced with dwarf or semi-dwarf trees that are allowed to reach a height of no more than 12-15 feet.

–Ground cover management:  If a weed-free strip is maintained in the tree row, most young larvae die of desiccation as they penetrate the soil surface to reach the roots (unless the orchard is irrigated).


I hope this infromation helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Scientists May Finally Know What is Killing All the Honeybees (and People with Brains have been Saying this for a LONG Time!!!)

I was still in graduate school when the topic of honeybee decline came up in conversation with my advisor, our post-doc, and the other grad student in my lab. “What could be causing it?”  “Cold temps” “Genetic deformations” Etc.

The girl sitting in the back seat on the car ride back from the field (i.e. your’s truly, Mertie Mae) said, “What about all the pesticides we put on the field. If we put an insectide on for Colorado Potato Beetles, we know that it kills all soft and hard bodied insects on the plant. If we spray insecticides, we know it kills all the worms in the ground. We have bee boxes around the cucumber fields and we know that half of the bees in the boxes disappear by the end of summer, even when they are inside of the cages. It has to be the chemicals we spray on the plants. It is the only logical explaination!”

Of course, at this point, the three men in the car gave me withering looks that pretty much said, “You are an idiot. You are a woman. You know nothing.”  Trust me, this is a look given to anyone in a land grant institution that doesn’t put the great ‘god’ Monsanto up on a pedestal and worship vigorously.

In case my past posts haven’t indicated it, I loath Monsanto and the chemical companies. I believe that we do not know the full extent of the damage they are doing to our environment and to us.

And, someday, if my body is ever found dead in a ditch or floating in a river or under concrete, my family knows to point the police in the direction of the nearest Monsanto representative. Seriously. I am that vocal about it.


So, today, a friend of mine on Facebook posted this article, and after I recovered from my bout of back slapping and hooting, I had to pass it on to you. Courtesy of Yahoo! Finance, I bring you this article that reflects that common sense has once again prevailed. (And that those who are brainwashed in order to get grant money DON’T always know everything… as I might have said to my advisor on my last trip out of his office door when I had my diploma in my hand…)

dead honeybee

Scientists May Have Finally Pinpointed What’s Killing All The Honeybees

Business Insider

Where have all the honeybees gone?

A new study seems to strengthen the evidence linking pesticides used on crops to colony collapse disorder in honeybees.

Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is a phenomenon in which honeybees inexplicably disappear from their hives. The bodies of the dead bees are typically never found.

Researchers led by Chensheng Lu of Harvard University have pinpointed the collapse of honeybee colonies on a class of pesticides known as neoniotinoids — insecticides that also act as nerve poisons and mimic the effects of nicotine. Scientists specifically looked at how low doses of two neonicotinoids — imidacloprid and clothianidin — affected healthy bee hives over the course of a winter.

The results of the study “reinforce the conclusion that sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids is likely the main culprit for the occurrence of CCD,” the authors wrote in their paper, published May 9 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

Disappearing Bees

Colony collapse disorder was first widely reported in America in 2006. Since then, a complex web of factors has been attributed to the mass honeybee die-offs, including everything from disease, parasites, and poor nutrition to the stress of being trucked around the country each year to pollinate different orchards.

Many scientists have theorized that a combination of these factors with exposure to pesticides could be causing the CCD phenomenon.

In contrast, the new study found that long-term exposure to small amounts of neonicotinoids wasn’t compromising the bees’ immune resistance to pathogens. The hives had just as many infections when they weren’t exposed to pesticides. This suggests that “neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD,” scientists said.

Three neonicotinoids are currently banned in the European Union, but these pesticides are still widely used in the United States. Most corn planted in the United States, for example, is treated with neonicotinoids. And while bees don’t pollinate corn, they are exposed to the chemical since the corn’s pollen floats to flowers and other crops nearby.

The Experiment

In October 2012, the Harvard team setup 18 hives at three locations in Massachusetts. At each location, four hives were fed high fructose corn syrup laced with neonicotinoids and two were left untouched. Researchers planned to monitor the hives over the winter since that’s when the die-outs occur.


Bulletin of Insectology

A chart shows the diminishing number of bees in imidacloprid- and clothianidin-treated colonies (the red and blue lines, respectively) between October 2012 and April 2013.

By the spring of 2013, researchers said half of the colonies treated with pesticides had abandoned their hives — the key symptom of CCD. The ones that were left weren’t in good shape. Their honeybee clusters were very small and either lacked queen bees or developing bees, the study said.

Only one of the untreated colonies was lost, and in that case the bees’ bodies were actually inside their hives and showed symptoms that appeared to be caused by a type of parasite.

The new study replicates a previous experiment done by the same group in 2010. In that study, the team only tested imidacloprid and found a higher rate of collapse — 94% of pesticide-treated colonies disappeared. They think the disparity might be related to a colder winter, which stresses the bees and exacerbates the effects of pesticides.

It’s still not clear what role neonicotinoids  play in causing the honeybees to leave their hives during the winter, but the researchers note that it might be related to “impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behavior.”

It’s been previously suggested that neonicotinoids affect the bees’ ability to remember how to get back to their hives. The bees get lost, which would explain why beekeepers usually can’t locate the dead bodies.

Study Challenges

Some bee researchers have found several things to gripe about with this study, including the small sample size, which was also a criticism of the initial experiment.

At, entomologist Jake Bova notes that hive abandonment is not a definitive sign of CCD. “Honey bees may abandon their hives for any number of different reasons, and this study doesn’t control for any of them.”

Other critics have taken issue with the delivery method of the pesticides. In response to the first study, May Berenbaum, head of entomology at the University of Illinois, noted to The Boston Globe that there’s been “no evidence of neonicotinoids in commercially available high fructose corn syrup” and that fact “undermines the premise of bees being exposed to pesticides through the food provided by beekeepers.”

Further, The Examiner’s James Cooper points out the study was published in an “obscure Italian journal” with a measly impact factor of .375 (for comparison, the journal Science, one of the most reputable in the world, has an impact factor of 31.027).

Cooper also said the authors “do not account for the fact the France still observes CCD each year, even though they banned neonicotinoids 5 years ago.”

Our World Without Honeybees

Objections to the study seem to belie the fact that any research on colony collapse disorder gives much-needed attention to a global crisis that puts us all at risk.

One-third of the food we eat depends on insect pollination, mostly by honeybees that are raised and managed by beekeepers. There is no good replacement for honeybees, which are easy to manage in masses and are unmatched in the variety of crops they can pollinate. Everything from apples and cherries to broccoli, pumpkins, and almonds depends on honeybees.

Over the last six years, American beekeepers have lost 30% of their hives each winter on average. Some winter losses are expected, but normally in the 5 to 10% range.

The Harvard study comes out just before the United States Department of Agriculture is set to release its annual report of winter honeybee losses. In a media alert, the department said that losses are “expected to be significant due to several contributing factors, including exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides.”


(Above content is copied from .  Dina, you rock! Great article! Thank you Yahoo! for permission to blog about this article!)


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Six Beneficial Insects for Your Garden

Reprinted with Permission of the National Garden Board:


Six Beneficial Insects for Your Garden

Speaking strictly from a gardener’s perspective … There are good bugs, and there are bad bugs. And the more you have of the former, the fewer problems you’ll have with the latter. Here are six beneficial insects that every gardener should know, and tips on how to get them to hang around your garden.

To read how each of these beneficials help in the garden, click here.
Attracting Syrphid flies to the garden:

The best way to attract syrphid flies is to plant sweet alyssum. They also like catmint, yarrow, buckwheat flowers, cilantro flowers, and many other blooming plants. Nothing, however, draws them in like sweet alyssum.

Attracting Bumblebees to the garden:

Bumblebees are not picky. They love clover, sunflowers, mint, coneflowers, asters, tomatoes, and any number of other flowers. The trick is to plan your garden so that you have plants in bloom all year long, from spring hellebore through fall dahlias. See HGSA’s article “Priority Pollinators” for lists of early, mid-season, and late season pollinator plants that you can grow from seed.

Attracting parasitic wasps to the garden:

Parasitoids can make a substantial contribution to your garden, so it makes sense to attract them with nectar-producing flowers. Two large families of plants that make excellent lures are the carrot and sunflower family. Choices within these groups are many: dill, cilantro, eryngium, parsley, asters, goldenrods, and sunflowers are just a few. By planting annual and biennial flowering plants right in the vegetable garden, and perennials along the borders, you can attract parasitoids when and where you most need them.

Attracting Tachinid flies to the garden:

Most adult tachinid flies feed on nectar and pollen, especially from plants in the carrot, sunflower, and mint families. Attract them in the same way as you would parasitic wasps, with a diverse planting of flowers and herbs. The flies will also feed on aphid honeydew, so planting a non-crop plant to attract aphids to your garden, such as nasturtium, can help to support them.

Attracting Lacewings to the garden:

Plant flowers that allow easy access to nectar. Generally, the same plants that attract parasitoids—those in the carrot and sunflower families—will nourish lacewings as well. And don’t be too quick to soap-spray your aphids; give beneficial insects a chance to find them. Studies have shown that spraying aphid-infested plants with a homemade solution (1 tablespoon sugar per cup of water) can help increase visits by lacewings and lady beetles.

Attracting Lady beetles to the garden:

Ladybugs love aphids, so the wise gardener will have a little tolerance for minor aphid infestations. Given time, their predators will likely find them. Ladybugs also love buckwheat flowers, but a study showed that they tend not to migrate from a perimeter buckwheat patch into the garden. A better option is to locate your garden within a couple of miles of a natural forest or field if possible. Or, on your own property, provide habitat by growing a diverse population of plants, including trees and shrubs, and especially flowers.

We’ve just created a Pinterest board for “Good Bugs for Your Garden” that features even more great resources.

Let’s Go Garden!

Rust on Ben Sarek Currants

“I have brownish red rust on the leaves of my brand new Ben Sarek Black Currants. I just bought them from Jung Nursery in Stevens Point. What is wrong with them?

Thank you,

Timothy in Bloomer, WI”


Hi Timothy,

Thank you for your post and photo of your Ben Sarek Black Currant. It looks like your plants is suffering from a condition caused by the Currant Blister Aphid. Feeding by the aphids cause  the leaves to blister and turn red. The plant will continue to grow unharmed as the aphid does not affect the crop of berries and will not overwinter here in Wisconsin. It is not necessary to treat currant blister aphid because it is just not something that survives in our area. My guess is that the stock nursery that they came from had aphids in their warehouse that were feeding on the dormant plants, and are likely long gone by now.

If you are a worrywart and wish to do something just in case there are still aphids on the plant, then spray with horticultural soap or a mild solution of washing up liquid to control the aphids.

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


American Garden Award Voting is now Open!

Reprinted with Permission of the National Garden Board:


Participating Gardens:

Click here for garden details
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Boerner Botanical Gardens
Callaway Gardens
Cantigny Gardens
Cleveland Botanical Gardens
Cole Gardens
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Denver Botanic Gardens
Domaine Joly-De Lotbiniere
Garfield Park Arts Center
International Peace Garden
JC Raulston Arboretum
Longwood Gardens
LSU Burden Center
Massachusetts Horticulture Society
Meadow Brook Hall
Missouri Botanical Garden
Montreal Botanic Garden
MSU Horticulture Gardens
North Carolina Arboretum
Oglebay Resort
Oklahoma State University
The Oregon Garden
Pier 39
Powell Gardens
Reiman Gardens – Iowa State Univ.
Rotary Botanical Gardens
Taltree Arboretum & Gardens
University of TN Gardens – Knoxville
Vander Veer Botanical Park
Zilker Botanical Gardens

Just in Time for Mother’s Day:
Voting is Now Open

for 2014
American Garden Award 

MAY 5, 2014

American Garden Award is a unique opportunity for you to vote for your favorite garden flower!

In 2014, there are four flower varieties that have been recently introduced to the market so they are available at retail. (Maybe a perfect Mother’s Day gift?!) All four entries (aka “Contestants”) are now, or will soon be, planted in thirty-two display gardens across North America. Voting is open from now until the end of September and the winners will be announced in early October. The four stunning entries are listed below and you can get in on the fun by voting in three ways:

1) Go to the American Garden Award website now and click on your favorite flower.

2) Visit a participating garden (Click here for the list) and text your vote using the special voting codes found on the signs in the garden. (Southern gardens are planted, the northern gardens will be planted at the appropriate time for their zone.)

3) Use the pre-paid postcard ballots found at the most participating gardens.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with the voting results. May the favorite garden flower win!

The Four Stunning Contestants:

Arrabona Red

Foxglove Digiplexis Illumination® Flame

Violet F1

® Radiant Blue

What is American Garden Award?