top of page

Search Results

Results found for ""

  • Home | DCMGV

    Learn more and Register today! About Us The mission of the Dakota County Extension Master Gardener program is to educate and assist the public by answering questions and solving problems about horticulture and related environmental topics. There are more than 130 Dakota County residents who are University of Minnesota Extension-trained and volunteer thousands of hours each year. Gardening Problem or Questions? Garden Information Ask a MG Ask a Master Gardener Extension Yard & Garden Extension Yard & Garden Garden Information 1/3 Upcoming Events View All Events Get the Buzz Don’t miss out on the Garden Buzz, the Dakota County Master Gardener’s monthly newsletter bringing you interesting, timely, research-based information on best practices in consumer gardening and caring for the environment. Monthly gardening tasks Master Gardener events Plant diseases, insects or other garden problems Tips to enhance your garden and the environment; Ideas for sharing the joy of gardening with the children in your lives Recipes, gardening books and much more! ​ Subscribe Now

  • News

    Perennials All About Peonies Peony is a favorite flower of many northern gardens. The sweet-scented flowers are large and range in colors of pink, red, white and pale yellow with attractive stems of pink to red. Read More Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): A-Long Blooming Stunner Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum is a tough plant, easy to grow, beautiful to behold and a one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. Add to those virtues, Anise hyssop is drought tolerant and does not attract deer or rabbits. As a perennial native to the American Midwest, this plant belongs in your garden. Read More Dividing Bearded Iris Your spectacular bearded iris have finished blooming. What do you to keep them coming back just as gorgeous next year? Irises need to be divided every 2 to 5 years in order to maintain full, healthy blooms and avoid insects such as the iris borer or diseases such as soft rot. The good news is that it is relatively easy to do! Read More Dividing Irises and Peonies Now that the Peony and Iris blossoms are gone for the season it's the perfect time to dig and divide the crowded plants. This article will help you prepare these plants for next year's season of beautiful blooms. Read More Enhance Your Home with Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) Enhance your home’s curb appeal and enrobe it in fall color by growing Boston Ivy on your home or patio. Boston Ivy is easy to grow, requires little maintenance, and provides lush green color in the Spring and Summer turning to vivid reddish-purple in the Fall. Read More Fall Perennials Creating season-long interest in your flowerbed is a rewarding part of our hobby. Watching as plants come alive and change throughout the season creates renewed interest and excitement. When the temperatures start to cool off with the approach of fall, you may find a lack of flowering plants in your bed. There are several choices of striking ornamental grasses to choose from, but what about flowers? Read More Fall Planting Tips Fall is a great time for planting! Read More Foxglove Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) can be a charming addition to your landscape. In this article you will learn about its interesting history and growing tips. Read More Goldenrod Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) – A Much Maligned Masterpiece Read More Harvesting Seeds for Native Prairie Restoration Dakota County Parks and Recreation is restoring the county’s native prairies. The goal is to grow the same types of plants that have successfully supported local insects, mammals, and birds for thousands of years. Prairie restoration rebuilds prairies by planting prairie seeds in areas that have changed to another land use. This article explains the how and why of native prairie restoration through the experience of Master Gardeners in Dakota County. Learn how you, too, can help wildlife and the environment by developing your own “pocket prairie” garden. Read More Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) Jack-in-the-Pulpit is a shade requiring native plant best grown in rich, moist woods or marshes. Read about this unique and fascinating long-lived perennial here. Read More Ornamental Grasses Interest in Ornamental Grasses has exploded. They can fit into any garden theme. They provide height, movement, and long season color to your landscape. Most questions about ornamental grasses consist of when to plant them, trimming grasses and how and when to divide them. Read More

  • Preparing Your Trees and Evergreens for Winter

    < Back Preparing Your Trees and Evergreens for Winter Jim Lakin, M.D., Master Gardener and Brynne Eisele, Master Gardener We’ve all heard that there are only two seasons in Minnesota---Winter and Getting Ready for Winter (or is it Road Repair?). In any event, Minnesota’s harsh winter can cause severe damage to landscape plants. The big three threats are sun, cold and critters. Happily, there are a number of things you can do this fall to protect your trees and shrubs from the Terrible Trio. Sun Damage. On a clear winter day, the sun can heat up the bark of a tree or the needles of an evergreen to the point where the cells will come out of dormancy. When the sun sets or goes behind a cloud cover, the temperature in the cells rapidly drops, killing the exposed plant tissue. This “sun scald” is most likely to occur on the bark of young or thin-skinned trees such as cherry, crabapple, honey locust, linden, maple, mountain ash or plum. To prevent sunscald, wrap the trunk of susceptible trees with a white plastic tree guard available at most nurseries and on-line. Stay away from brown paper tree wrap or black tree guards as they will absorb heat rather than reflect it. You should wrap newly planted trees for at least two winters and thin-barked species for five or more winters. Apply the tree guards in the fall and remove in the spring after the last frost. A white plastic tree guard applied to a new planting. Evergreens are susceptible to similar injury, especially with early cold weather in the fall or a spring cold snap after new growth has begun. Although all evergreens are susceptible to this “winter browning”, yew, hemlock, and arborvitae as well as new transplants are especially so. Several measures can reduce winter evergreen injury. When planting susceptible species, consider placing them in areas protected from wind and winter sun such as the north or northwest side of buildings. If a plant is exposed, a barrier of burlap on the windward (usually the south or southwest) side can help. As with deciduous trees, watering in the late fall before a hard frost can make a big difference. Don’t prune after August as this may stimulate growth that a frost will “nip in the bud.” Commercial anti-desiccants and anti-transpirant sprays have not been found to be helpful. Cold Damage. Cold weather can kill trees and shrubs if conditions are right. The cold accomplishes this be freezing the root system which is much more cold-sensitive than the stems of branches. What normally protects the root system of a tree or evergreen is the relative warmth of the surrounding earth. The soil cools less rapidly than air. Any insulation from a snow-cover or mulch will further increase soil and root warmth. Thus, to reduce root injury cover newly planted trees and shrubs with 3 to 4 inches of shredded wood mulch. You should pull the mulch away from the trunk about 6 inches to create a “doughnut” not a “volcano”! Watering is also critical. Moist soil retains heat much better than dry soil. If the fall has been dry water heavily before the ground freezes. This will reduce frost penetration. Before you mulch, check new plantings for cracks in the soil. These act as cold air conduits. Fill them in with soil. Critter Damage. If you have a manageable number of trees and shrubs to protect, the best defense is to surround the plant or trunk with ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth 6 inches away from the plant. This will prevent animals from reaching through to do their damage. Keep in mind the anticipated snow line as it’s important to protect 1-2 feet above the snow line with the hardware cloth to prevent animals from nibbling partway up the plant. It is also important to bury the bottom of the hardware cloth 2-3 inches below the soil surface to reduce the chance of animals tunneling underneath. For smaller, less established trees you may be able to use plastic white tree guards. If you have large number of trees and shrubs to protect, consider applying an organic repellant. Coated hardware cloth cylinder sunk 2-3 inches below ground. Reducing the desirable habitat will help decrease protective cover and nesting locations. This can be done by cutting grass and other vegetation short in a 2 foot radius around young trees and shrubs. It also helps to remove brush piles and add fencing to other hiding places such as under decks. While hungry animals in winter may gnaw on your trees and shrubs no matter the protective measures you take, these methods can significantly reduce the amount and severity of damage. Deer, however, are a different story. They often adapt to repellents and a change of product is frequently necessary to discourage them. In late winter when they are starving, even that won’t stop them. Thus, a physical barrier is often the only way to manage deer. That can be a tough proposition though. Fences should be at least 8 feet high and of sturdy construction. However, a hungry deer if given a running start can clear a 12-foot barrier. You might try an electric fence such as used for cattle. Deer populations have been exploding in Minnesota as we have eliminated their natural predators. Maybe a few wolves here and there aren’t so bad. For more information on this complex subject, check out the University of Minnesota Extension: https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/protecting-trees-and-shrubs-winter Photo credits: University of Minnesota (1, 2)

  • Stumped by a Stumpery?

    < Back Stumped by a Stumpery? Deborah Snow, Master Gardener Have you thought about planting a Stumpery in your yard? A what? A Stumpery is basically a stylized shade garden. The garden uses stumps and logs as habitat for shade-loving plants; mainly, ferns, mosses and lichen. Colorful mushrooms may eventually grow and add color and character to the wood. When I tell people how excited I am about creating my own Stumpery, almost everyone asks, “What is that?!” As any gardener, I’m learning along the way. I tell them it’s basically a stylized shade garden. The garden uses stumps and logs as habitat for shade-loving plants; mainly, ferns, mosses and lichen. Colorful mushrooms may eventually grow and add color and character to the wood. So, how did this garden style get started? It came from a Victorian tradition of growing ferns among tree stumps. One of the first documented Stumperies was at Biddulph Grange in England. It was designed in 1856 by Edward William Cook, an artist and garden designer. Estate owner, James Bateman, was a wealthy horticulturalist who exemplified the Victorian passion for collecting plants from around the world. They created the Stumpery by stacking tree stumps into 10 foot high walls and filling the crevices with ferns and other plants. Due to the popularity of ferns during the Victorian era, the Stumpery was adopted as the garden space to display their collection. The Stumpery was emulated throughout England. One of the most famous Stumperies was created by Prince Charles of Wales, now King Charles, and is still a featured part of the gardens at Highgrove, his home in Gloucestershire. I did see a Stumpery in England but you don’t need to go that far. We recently toured a Stumpery at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. I highly recommend a visit there if you’ve never been. What inspiration does a Victorian tradition from England have for American gardeners? A Stumpery is a workable concept for a modern garden. There is beauty in the architecture it provides. Its unique design lends itself to beneficial growing environments for shade-loving plants. Ferns are an obvious choice but any woodland plant could be included. It’s always evolving and that’s exciting to me! As the stumps and logs gradually decompose, the peeling bark provides habitat for insects that will feed the birds and frogs or pollinate the plants in the garden. Then come the mushrooms! I can’t wait for that. Next, I’ll talk about how to create your own Stumpery. It can be large or small. It can consist of several unearthed trees showing the roots or simply make use of logs or driftwood. You will use the arrangement of logs and stumps as an organizing feature. The wood will be equally important as the plants. Shade or part shade will work best and, if possible, plant on a slope for the best viewing. Along the edge of some woods would be perfect. My Stumpery is still very young. I put it together in the fall of 2021 and have added more wood and plants this last season. I’m sure it will get bigger as I learn more and find interesting pieces of wood. I’m always on the hunt. Friends have even contributed stumps. I will share the steps I used to get started. First, I chose and cleared the site. Next, I gathered some wood. I laid cardboard as the base to smother any weeds. I used logs as an outline and piled a mix of garden soil and compost inside. I created a mound since I didn’t have a slope. I partially buried some interesting stumps in and around the mound and covered it with wood chips for mulch. Now I was ready to plant. I’m such a plant collector and all that summer, before I started to build, I collected mostly ferns. I looked for varieties I didn’t already have wherever I went. Any time I saw something differed or unique I bought it. Also, I transplanted some ferns from my other gardens. So now I had a nice selection of plants to tuck in and around the wood. I planted ostrich ferns as a backdrop and started some mosses inside some hollowed out pieces of wood. I have continued putting in plants and stumps all this next season. And of course, me being me, I had to put a fairy garden piece in as well! I’m sure that will grow in the future. The garden looks mostly brown still but should be showing more green in the spring – I hope. I have struggled to keep it wet enough to get the mosses going. They don’t like this hot dry weather pattern we are stuck in. I’m hoping for a rainy spring and I’ll place more mosses. I’m researching best practices for moss and hope to do better next year. So, now you know what I know and I hope you are inspired to get out and build one of your own or at least find a stumpery to visit. There are lots of beautiful photos online to give you a better sense of what a mature Stumpery will look like. Good luck and happy gardening. Photo credits: Deborah Snow (all)

  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): A-Long Blooming Stunner

    < Back Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): A-Long Blooming Stunner Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum is a tough plant, easy to grow, beautiful to behold and a one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. Add to those virtues, Anise hyssop is drought tolerant and does not attract deer or rabbits. As a perennial native to the American Midwest, this plant belongs in your garden. For millennia the hyssop plant has been associated with ritual purification. Tradition holds that King David, regretting some of his actions, prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Ps 51:7). It has been used medicinally for digestive and intestinal problems including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain, intestinal gas, colic, and loss of appetite. While I can make no claims for its therapeutic properties, I can quite vigorously assert the virtues of its American cousin, Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum . This is a tough plant, easy to grow, beautiful to behold and a one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. Agastache foeniculum alternately known as anise hyssop, blue giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop or lavender giant hyssop is a native perennial to the American Midwest and Central Canada although it has spread to much of upper North America. It is drought tolerant and not very tasty to deer or rabbits (a plus in Minnesota). As mentioned, it is very attractive to honey bees as well as a host of native bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees and night flying moths. Anise hyssop grows as a bush some 2 to 4 feet tall with a clump-like upright shape. Its tiny lavender flowers appear as a flashy panicle (stalk of many small flowers) above oval, serrated leaves with white tan undersides. Its blooming season is long, starting in early June and continuing into September. Anise hyssop puts down a taproot, so if you are transplanting, do it in late fall, dig deep and don’t expect 100% success. Anise hyssop grows easily from seed, although you should stratify the seeds before trying your hand at germination. This simply means storing the seeds in a moist, cold environment for 30 days. Popping them into the fridge in a Ziploc bag with a moist coffee filter does the trick nicely. After that just sprinkle a few seeds on the seeding media and press them in. Don’t cover with soil as the seeds need sunlight to germinate. Once the seedlings have developed their first two sets of true leaves, they should be ready to transplant. You can, of course seed directly into the garden in late spring but you may not get blooms the first year. The plant does best in full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) but will soldier along in partial shade (at least 4 hours sunlight). It is not particularly fussy about soil type although the site should be well-drained. Avoid damp areas around ponds or areas prone to flooding. Those areas will leave the plants open to foliar disease, fungus and root rot. Although it is of the mint family, anise hyssop is not invasive. It does self-seed but if you are manicuring your garden, it is a pretty easy matter to pull unwanted seedlings in the spring. If you are going for a more naturalized effect, mixing with Black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Bee Balm, Echinacea purpurea, and/or Smooth Blue Aster can create a stunning effect. No matter how you incorporate this versitle plant into your garden décor, it will prove to be a valuable addition to your local ecology. Photo credits: www.flickr.com (1), istock (2)

  • News

    Trees & Shrubs Best Time to Prune Trees Although trees are quite resilient and may be pruned anytime, there are both practical as well as biological reasons to prune or not prune during certain times of the year. Read More Buckthorn Removal Ah yes, the dreaded B word … Buckthorn! This noxious invasive species threatens residential, woodland areas, waters and grassland areas. Unfortunately, buckthorn is a multi-year commitment as the seeds in the soil can germinate for many years. So, you ask, what kind of treatment plan should you use? Read on for tips to use in removing this invasive plant. Read More Buttonbush (Queen of the Wetlands) Buttonbush is a great shrub for naturalizing in wet areas and attracts butterflies. Read more about its attributes. Read More Holiday Trees Tis the season. If your holiday decorating includes a fresh cut tree, here are some things to consider before selecting your tree and some tips to ensure it lasts throughout the season. Read More How Trees Talk to One Another Have you ever walked in the woods and thought there was someone there, someone talking? Well, if you have, you were right. It was the trees talking to one another. Read More How to Identify Minnesota Native Conifers The garden beds are tucked in under an abundant blanket of snow. The wardrobes of the deciduous trees are a distant memory after their yearly fashion show. But for some of us, one of the most beautiful sights this time of year, is the star of the season’s show: the coniferous tree. Most conifers stay green throughout the winter but they are not all the same. Read More March is a Great Time to Prune Many Trees and Shrubs Don’t let the fact that there is still snow on the ground deter you from getting outside and pruning the trees and shrubs in your yard that need it. Late winter and early spring is the best time to prune most trees and shrubs. This article will provide some advice on how to go about it to make your plants and yourself pleased with the result. Read More Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) Looking for a small tree to add to your landscape? Consider the Pagoda Dogwood, it grows quickly and offers delicious berries for the birds in late summer. Read more about this attractive tree here. Read More Plants for Winter Interest In Minnesota, the winter color palette tends toward white, brown and gray. But we need not think of this landscape as drab or uninteresting. Fill your yard with interesting shrubs and sturdy perennials to enjoy a peacefully pleasing home landscape. Read this article for several plants that liven up a winter landscape. Read More Preparing Your Trees and Evergreens for Winter We’ve all heard that there are only two seasons in Minnesota---Winter and Getting Ready for Winter (or is it Road Repair?). In any event, Minnesota’s harsh winter can cause severe damage to landscape plants. The big three threats are sun, cold and critters. Happily, there are a number of things you can do this fall to protect your trees and shrubs from the Terrible Trio. Read More Why Weigela? Weigelas are beautiful, deer-resistant, flowering shrubs. There are many lovely varieties to choose. Learn why you should consider this shrub for your garden. Read More

  • News

    Annuals & Bulbs ​ The Ws (plus an H) of Bulbs The great thing about planting bulbs is that they will bloom year after year. Here's what you need to know to grow bulbs successfully in your garden and look forward to early spring color. Read More ​ Glorious Amaryllis Amaryllis is a beautiful plant with large, stunning blooms that can be grown as a houseplant year-round. Get ready for some beautiful inside blooms and learn all about growing Amaryllis this winter. Read More ​ Zinnias: Vibrant Accents to a Northern Garden You know that zinnias provide a beautiful flourish to the summer garden. The varieties and colors are endless and can be enjoyed from late Spring into the Fall. But did you know that growing Zinnias from seed is both easy and rewarding? Read this article to learn why you might want to grow your own zinnias from seed this year. Read More ​ Early Spring Blooming Plants Deep in the doldrums of winter, everyone is anxious for spring weather to arrive so that, once again, they can dig in the dirt planting flowers and vegetables. To entice us even more, we’re seeing bulb plants in the stores for sale so we can enjoy them at home until spring finally arrives. In this article, I’ll talk about some of the most popular spring blooming plants for your garden. Read More ​ Harvesting and Preserving Herbs Harvest time is such a fun time of the year. There are so many herbs to harvest and preserve for the upcoming winter months. Some share their bounty year after year, like tarragon and oregano, and others, like basil and marjoram, are planted in spring for a fall harvest. Read More ​ Forcing Flower Bulbs Successfully Need a little color in your home this winter? After all the holiday décor is stored away, forcing flower bulbs indoors is a great way to enjoy flowers, both for their color and fragrance, during the cold winter months. Read More ​ Growing Daffodils Sometimes referred to as narcissus, daffodils nodding yellow, white, or variegated heads, are true harbingers of spring. Daffodils are a colorful addition to your garden with few basic steps. Read More

  • Holiday Trees

    < Back Holiday Trees Tori Clark, Master Gardener Tis the season. If your holiday decorating includes a fresh cut tree, here are some things to consider before selecting your tree and some tips to ensure it lasts throughout the season. If your holiday decorating includes a fresh cut tree, there are some things to consider before selecting your tree and tips to ensure it lasts throughout the season. Most of the trees you will find at cut-your-own or pre-cut lots will be one of these four types: Fraser fir trees have bright green, flattened needles; ½ to 1 inch long. They have some of the best needle retention and a pleasant scent. Fraser firs have strong branches which angle upward making them a great choice for heavier ornaments. Fraser fir Balsam fir needles tend to be a little longer, about ¾" to 1 ½" . The long-lasting needles are flat and rounded at the tip. These firs have a dark green color and are very fragrant. Balsam fir Scotch pine has very stiff, dark green needles about one inch long. The needles will stay on the tree even when dry. Scotch pine White pines have soft, blue-green needles, 2 to 4 inches long, that will stay on throughout the holiday season. The trees have a full appearance and are best suited to smaller ornaments. White pines have little or no fragrance, but can have less allergic reactions compared to more fragrant trees. White pine Whether you are shopping at a pre-cut tree lot in town or cutting your own, make sure you have a good idea of the height and width the desired spot in your home can accommodate. Also check your tree for freshness. Trees are often cut weeks earlier, so make sure the needles are green and flexible and do not fall off when you run your hand over a branch. If you are not putting your tree up when you bring it home, keep it in a shaded unheated location. A fresh cut to the trunk of your holiday tree will help it last through all of your holiday celebrations so remove 1-2” of the trunk then place the tree in a stand with water. A good quality tree stand will hold one to two gallons of water. Keep it filled with water for a long-lasting tree that is fragrant and doesn’t drop too many needles. Be sure to keep your tree away from heat sources like vents and fireplaces to reduce drying. Look for resources in your community for recycling your tree after the holidays. Photo credits: www.forestryimages.org (1, 2), www.flickr.com (3, 4)

  • Why Weigela?

    < Back Why Weigela? Marjory Blare, Master Gardener Weigelas are beautiful, deer-resistant, flowering shrubs. There are many lovely varieties to choose. Learn why you should consider this shrub for your garden. Wine and Roses Weigelas (wy-GEE-la) are a hardy shrub that can vary in size from 1.5 feet to 12 feet high, depending on the cultivar. Funnel-form or bell-shaped blossoms can be white, yellow, pale pink, deep-red or maroon. Some varieties bloom only in the spring, some follow-up with a steady supply the rest of the year, some will re-bloom later. Leaves can be dark or light green, variegated or 'purple/bronze'. Weigela is hardy in zones 4 – 8 and does best in full sun to dappled shade. They are tolerant of most soil conditions, even clay, but they don't do well in soggy conditions. For planting instructions see: https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/planting-shrubs-correctly/ This link has a very good explanation of how to plant container-grown shrubs, but also has a great explanation of why they recommend these procedures. They also tell you how to “root-wash” (my favorite method) container plants, and why this method is recommended. In this age of invasive species, this can be one way to avoid jumping worms. Make sure to dispose of the discarded soil. Be aware that this link is from South Carolina, so, the advice to get a soil test (https://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/ ) is valid, but Dakota County soils are not generally acidic, we do not rarely need to amend the soil with lime. Red Prince Rubidor Fertilize Weigela in the spring just before new growth appears. It may not be necessary to prune at all, (except for winter die-back and any crossed, rubbing, branches), if you've chosen the right cultivar for the available space. Pay special attention to mature plant size and USDA zones when you buy. Some growers “push” the limits of the zones and sizes for the cultivar. Check several different catalogs to see what zones and sizes they list. Weigelas bloom on “old” wood. That means that next year's flowers will be produced on wood that grew this year. Prune immediately after flowering, if you wait longer, you will remove next year's flowers. Some varieties send up a “horn” that you may want to prune, also. In a dry spring, direct sun can burn the leaves of yellow-leafed varieties. Prune burned growth after new growth has come in. There are two more intensive kinds of pruning that you may want to consider at some point. The first is re-rejuvenation. This would be your choice if the shrub is looking worn-out, overgrown or raggedy. Simply put, you cut all the stems back to about 6”. It will take time to recover and fill in the space, but will have good results. The other is renewal pruning. Each year prune out about 1/3rd of the oldest stems. Both of these techniques will result in renewed vigor and blooming in the future. These methods will work on many other shrubs as well. Polka Weigelas are a pollinator-friendly, deer-resistant, drought-resistant, reliable addition to your home landscape! Photo credits: Marjory Blare (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Buttonbush (Queen of the Wetlands)

    < Back Buttonbush (Queen of the Wetlands) Jim Lakin, M.D., Master Gardener Buttonbush is a great shrub for naturalizing in wet areas and attracts butterflies. Read more about its attributes. We have some wonderful marsh lands on our property. Among the Giant Blue Lobelias and the Cardinal flowers, there’s a delightful shrub that stands out, the Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis ). This is a native perennial plant to much of the Eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Minnesota, south to Florida and East Texas. You’ll find it in a range of wetland habitats including swamps, floodplains, mangroves, around ponds and margins of streams and even moist forest understories. It grows as a deciduous shrub or small tree, running from three to ten feet in height. It has glossy green leaves which appear in the late spring. Its unique fragrant white to pink bloom, shown in the first picture, gives it its common name. Buttonbush usually blooms from June through September although this period may be shorter further north. It was introduced commercially in 1735 as a source of nectar for commercial honey production. Thus, it’s other common name, Honey Bells. Buttonbush forms an important link in the wetland ecology. A number of waterfowl eat the seeds and wood ducks use the plant as nest protection. We’ve had a pair in our pond for several years that seem to regularly avail themselves of our buttonbushes building material. Deer browse the foliage which surprisingly is poisonous to livestock. Darn deer eat anything! A number of native as well as honey bees feed on the nectar as do hummingbirds. The plant acts as larval host to Titan Sphinx, Walnut and Hydrangea Sphinx moths. It can be used in butterfly gardens, as a naturalizing plant or to control erosion in difficult, moist areas. It’s great for naturalizing. To grow Buttonbush, select a fairly moist environment. As you might imagine it has a pretty high water requirement even though it likes shade to part shade. It is a spreading multi-branched shrub with an irregular crown which produces balls of white flowers resembling pincushions. As it can get a bit lanky, plants in a more formal setting might need to be pruned from time to time. It is a rapid grower and spreads by suckering. It is said to be hardy from Zones 5 to 11 although a number of plants do just fine in Zone 4. For Minnesota gardeners it might be wise to consider planting in a protected area and mulching in the fall at least for the first year or two. Getting a local specimen is also important. Buttonbush is an otherwise hardy ornamental perennial. It’s a native that is an attractive addition to any moist shady area. Photo credits: Jim Evans, Wikimedia Commons (1), C. Fannon, University of Texas (2)

  • How to Identify Minnesota Native Conifers

    < Back How to Identify Minnesota Native Conifers Lisa Olson, Master Gardener The garden beds are tucked in under an abundant blanket of snow. The wardrobes of the deciduous trees are a distant memory after their yearly fashion show. But for some of us, one of the most beautiful sights this time of year, is the star of the season’s show: the coniferous tree. Most conifers stay green throughout the winter but they are not all the same. It’s February in Minnesota. The dead of winter as they say. The garden beds are tucked in under an abundant blanket of snow. The wardrobes of the deciduous trees are a distant memory after their yearly fashion show. Many having changed from vibrant spring green all the way to the glorious colors of autumn, finally turning brown and floating to the ground to nourish the soil, leaving the trees bare and waiting for the next phase of the cycle to begin again. Many gardeners are dreaming of their favorite plants that will spring back to life again when the warming sun melts away the chill of winter. But for some of us, one of the most beautiful sights this time of year, is the star of the season’s show: the coniferous tree. Though not synonymous with the word evergreen, most conifers in Minnesota do remain green throughout the changing seasons, providing a welcome contrast of color against the white and gray landscape. Note, there are many tropical plants in warmer climates that are evergreens in that they stay green all year, but they are not all conifers. This article will help you identify the lovely conifers native to Minnesota. First of all, it is important to note the difference between conifers and deciduous trees. All trees have leaves, but the leaves of conifers are needles. The other obvious difference is that all conifers have cones to hold their seeds, unlike the various seed covers deciduous trees possess. Many people incorrectly call all cones pinecones, but not all conifers are pine trees. All deciduous trees drop their leaves in winter. It may seem surprising, but conifers lose their needles too. For most conifers, however, it happens over a very long period of time. Rather than drop all of their needles at once like deciduous trees lose their leaves, it may take many years for a conifer to gradually drop and replace all of its needles. There is an exception though, and that is the Tamarack , also known as the eastern or American larch . Each fall, the Tamarack turns a dull yellow in the fall and loses all of its needles just like a deciduous tree loses its leaves. Its cones release tiny winged seeds from its cones which often remain on the tree for years. Tamarack Besides the Tamarack, there are nine other conifers native to Minnesota. They are all true evergreens, slowly changing out their needles over a number of years. Two of the native conifers are cedar trees. One is the eastern red cedar, which is actually a juniper, and the other is the northern white cedar. 1. Eastern red cedar (actually a juniper): The needles on the red cedar are scale-like with four rows lining up along the stem making it appear almost square. Its ¼ inch blue berry-like cone holds one or two seeds that are a bird favorite. Eastern red cedar 2. Northern white cedar : The scale-like needles on the white cedar are arranged in such a way that they appear to form small flat branches. The cones are ½ inch oblong yellowish-brown that grow singly or in clusters at the ends of the branches. Northern white cedar 3. Balsam fir : It is very popular as a holiday tree with its dark green, ½ -1 inch long flat, rounded-tip needles. Its cones are about 3-4 inches long that stand upright on the branches. When it ripens, the seeds fall along with the scales protecting them. What’s left, is the empty inner core of the cone, standing straight up like a spike. Balsam fir 4. Hemlock : The shade-loving hemlock has needles that are about 1/3-2/3 inches long. They are flat and blunt. The cones are ½-3/4 inches long. They hang from the ends of twigs. The hemlock is just barely native to Minnesota, reaching the state up north just south of Lake Superior. Hemlock 5. White Pine : The white pine has 2 ½ - 5 inch long needles that are bluish-green on one side and white-ish on the other side. They grow in bundles of five and they are incredibly soft. The cones are 4-8 inches long. White pine 6. Jack Pine: The jack pine needles are ¾ to 1 ½ inches long that are flat and stubby and grow in bundles of two. The cones are 1 ½ - 2 inches long. They are curved, brown-ish when ripe, and its not uncommon to find ripe seeds on the tree for many years. Jack pine 7. Red Pine (also known as the Norway Pine – the state tree of Minnesota): The 4 - 6 inch long needles of the red pine also grow in clusters of two. If you bend a needle, it makes a clean break. The interesting cones are about 2 inches long and light brown. While they mature and drop their seeds in early fall, the cones remain on the tree until the following spring. Red pine The last two native conifers are the black spruce and the white spruce. Spruce needles are unique in that they are square shaped. You can pull off a singularly grown needle and roll it in your fingers due to its square shape. The needles of the white spruce have an unpleasant odor when crushed. 8. Black Spruce : The cones of the black spruce are ½ - 1 ½ inches long and they start out dark purple and change to brown when they are ripe. Black spruce 9. White Spruce : The cones of the white spruce are about 2 inches long with a slender appearance. White spruce While you may be familiar with names like Fraser Fir, Doulgas Fir, Scotch Pine, and Colorado Blue Spruce, these popular trees commonly used over the holidays, are not actually native to Minnesota and so were not featured in this article. In closing, however, here is a summary to at least help you differentiate between fir, pine, and spruce trees: Fir : Needles are flat and soft. (Remember “friendly fir” - if you were to shake its hand compared to a pointy, stiff spruce.) If you were to pull off a needle, which grows singularly, it would leave a small circular scar on the stem. Pine : Needles group in clusters of two, three, or five depending on the type of tree. The clusters of needles are called fascicles. Most pine cones are woody in texture. Spruce : Spruce needles are sharply pointed, square, and you can roll them between your fingers. They are attached singularly to the stem on small woody structures that remain as projections if you pull a needle off the stem. Spruce cones are generally more flexible than pine cones. For more information, The University of Minnesota has put together this handy booklet: A Beginner’s Guide to MINNESOTA TREES. https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/49816/6593.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y References: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/trees/native-trees.html (including all photos, except where noted) https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/pine_spruce_or_fir_getting_to_know_michigan_evergreen_trees https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2005/nov/061401.htm Photo credits: Lisa Olson (1), Minnesota DNR (2 - 12))

  • Best Time to Prune Trees

    < Back Best Time to Prune Trees Faith Appelquist, Master Gardener Although trees are quite resilient and may be pruned anytime, there are both practical as well as biological reasons to prune or not prune during certain times of the year. Although trees are quite resilient and may be pruned anytime, there are both practical as well as biological reasons to prune or not prune during certain times of the year. If it is between opening up a wound to heat or opening to the cold, opening the wound to the cold is best. Optimally, the perfect window would be past February and into March. The chance of frostbite on the sensitive cambium is less, and the sap is not rising. When certain species are trimmed during the growing season, such as American Elms or Oaks, pheromones (scents) are given off at the wound, attracting insects that can carry fungus on their bodies that can infect these trees. These trees are best pruned in the fall or early spring. Deadwood should be pruned anytime because it is a health and safety issue. Deadwood is food for decay organisms and the quicker it is removed from a tree the sooner it can start closing the wound and preventing the spread of decay. If the tree was planted for its spring flowers, such as magnolia, dogwood, crabapple, you will want to wait until after it has flowered to prune. Otherwise you prune flower buds off and reduce the abundance of flowers that spring. For certain species such as maples and birches, I would trim these in the summer to minimize sap oozing or ‘bleeding’. Pruning during full leaf is fine, but dormant season is probably still best for tree health.

bottom of page