Grow 547: Facts, techniques, tips

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There are always new plants to learn. 

Early Winter!

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Gardeners share the best advice and most valuable tips

Dear Readers,

A student once said, "Thanks for convincing me that if I can't give a plant the right light and water, so it can keep itself healthy, it's better to just throw it away or let it die rather than spend my gardening time medicating it. Ever since I moved that troublemaker shrub to a better place, I haven't had to spray it!"

Recently we asked fellow instructors for more facts or techniques that people in their classes had considered valuable. Here is what their students said, "I'm glad you told me:"

"That I should learn the botanical name of a plant, so I can communicate with any gardener, horticulturist or botanist, worldwide, and we'll both know we're talking about the same plant. You were right that using a common name can confuse things since that name might be relevant in only one region and one plant might have many common names. As I use these names they don't even sound strange anymore, no more so than 'Forsythia' which is a botanical name!"

From a student of Karen Bovio, plant propagation specialist
and owner of Specialty Growers Perennials.

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"That there are always new plants to learn. You told me that in my class assignment I used plants that were news to you, the instructor. I was getting a little desperate because there were so many plants to learn and it made me feel better that you don't even know them all."

From a student of David Michener,
University of Michigan Associate Professor of Landscape.

"That root-killing soil compaction isn't necessarily at the top of the soil but can be transmitted deep down and there may be a loose layer that seems fine above it. So I may have to probe to find out it's there, causing the problem. I don't think I'll ever forget 'the pathogen of the newspaper delivery girl,' when you helped someone see that the problem with their lawn in one area was from the daily tread of a delivery person compacting the soil along one narrow path.

From a student of Dean Krauskopf,
MSU Extension professor of commercial horticulture.



"I'm glad you told me about roots and root pruning. I had no idea roots could grow two or three times as far as the branches spread and that most are quite close to the surface. Now I know to root prune a season ahead of time so my transplants have a better survival rate."

From a student of Dan Kurkowski,
Forester for the City of Detroit.

"That even if I cut my rose wrong I won't kill it. It's just like a bad haircut, a mistake that will grow out!"

From a student of Nancy Lindley,
owner of Great Lakes Roses.

"To pay more attention to my plants, to really look at all the ways they tell us if they're 'okay' or not. After your class I was amazed at all the things I was looking at that I had never really seen before."

From a student of Steven Nikkila,
Horticulturist and garden photographer.

"To use the same rules of design for my exterior as I would use in the interior. That I can arrange the plants in a bed the same way I might arrange a group of things I hang on my living room wall."

From a student of Pam (Palechek) Fiani,
landscape designer and owner of Petal Pushers design company.

"That not every plant in my existing landscape has value and it's okay to tear out those ugly shrubs. My wife and I did the careful evaluation of our landscape that you taught me, and now we can see potential in our landscape where we didn't see anything before except that we didn't like it."

From a student of Karen Skandalaris,
landscape designer.

"That I can prune things like boxwoods and redtwig dogwoods in December so I can use the trimmings for winter decorations"

From a student of Karen Sierzega, owner of
Through the Arbor gardening company.

"That I should read, take classes, learn from experts, then go home into my own garden and do it my own way, to make it my own!"

From a student of Martha Ferguson,
garden writer and tropical plants instructor.


Green thumbs up


to forgiving yourself for the mistakes and shortcomings of the year just past. Take advantage of the new year to move on and keep growing. As our friend Wil Strickland says, "Gardening is a process, not a product. Enjoy what you do, don't expect it to ever be 'done.'"


Green thumbs down

to holding the door open for extended periods of time as you say good bye to your holiday guests. Cold drafts can be murder on indoor plants, causing mysterious problems such as leaves curled on one side or deformities in some of the new foliage.


Originally published 12/27/03










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