Volume 3 Issue 5 | May 2022
Pent-up gardening energy abounds. These are roll-up-your-sleeves and make-it-happen days. Marvelous May!
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Look Around
This is the season to inspect the garden for emerging plants. Is that a volunteer verbena? Tomato or weed? Those first emerging “seed leaves”, or cotyledons, may fool us. Cotyledons don’t look like the leaves of the corn or zinnia that we planted. Their stored energy allows the following “true leaves” to unfurl and begin the business of photosynthesis and growth.

Angiosperms, or flowering plants, are divided into two groups that share common characteristics: monocots (mono=1, cot= cotyledon) and dicots. Monocots, with their
photo by E Barth-Elias
one cotyledon, are the plants with elongated leaves with parallel veins, like grass, corn, lilies, or bamboo. Dicot plants, with two cotyledons, have leaves with branched veins, such as maple, bleeding heart, tomato, or viburnum. We can expect monocots to have fibrous roots, a vascular system (the plumbing system that carries food and water throughout the plant) that is arranged in a scattered way in the stems, and flower petals and parts in multiples of 3. Dicots usually have roots that branch out from a tap root, a vascular system arranged in a ring (remember the cross-section of an oak tree?), and flower petals in multiples of four or five.

Is this way of looking at plants just another way to keep plant nerds employed? Far from it! Knowing that monocots or dicots share certain characteristics can help identify plants, predict some of their growing characteristics and needs, and inform us about their care. The fibrous roots of monocots tend to be closer to the surface and make efficient use of light rains and watering. Your lawn can efficiently take in water that would be a tease to deep-rooted plants. The meristem (the area where a plant pushes new growth) of monocots is usually located at or just under the soil level. You could mow your lawn down to the ground and it will produce new growth. The meristem of a dicot is located at the shoot tips. You prune your hydrangea or maple along the branches to activate dormant buds and prompt new growth.

Does an emerging seedling have a single or double seed leaf? You are on your way to knowing quite a bit about that new plant.  Look around!
 
For more about monocots and dicots go HERE
K Edgington
Leaf Brief - Canada Mayflower
Maianthemum canadense
photo by E Barth-Elias
It's May and the spring ephemerals have come and gone, having taken advantage of increased light and cool temperatures. What’s next in the native wildflower repertoire? The Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), which, as the name suggests, blooms in May, continuing into June. Its range extends way beyond Canada, and can be found in shady woodlands from the sub-arctic to the Appalachians. That includes Plant Hardiness Zones 1a to 8a – quite the range! This versatile plant can be found among hardwoods or pines, and in bogs or sand dunes as long as the pH is above 4.5 and the site is somewhat shaded.

With a short stem and two shiny leaves this woodland perennial sports a single white spiky flower that lasts for several weeks. Immature plants only have one leaf, but because they are spread by rhizomes that form dense colonies, they make a big visual impact. Called the false lily of the valley because of their similarities, the two are not related. 
Unlike ephemerals that go dormant and disappear in the spring, Canada mayflower persists through the summer and forms speckled red/beige berries that become deep red in the fall, giving it another nickname, the Canada beadruby. 

The Canada mayflower forms an important bridge for pollinators such as small bees, beetles, and syrphids at a time when pollen and nectar are in short supply. In the fall, berries are consumed by the ruffed grouse which help scatter seeds to new areas. Mice and chipmunks also eat the berries and the leaves persist through the winter. While not considered poisonous, the Canada mayflower has no known medicinal uses and is not considered a food. If you are so inclined, feel free to lower yourself to the forest floor for a whiff of its favorite blooms. Native wildflowers are very important to the local ecosystem, so take a moment to appreciate their beauty, resilience, and significance in our environment.

J Gramlich
Perennials: Take Pruning to a New Level
If you’re like me, you first started growing perennials because of their beauty and because they pretty much took care of themselves. Once the plants were in the ground, I could pretty much let them be. I was much younger and very ill-informed.

Fortunately, there is a cure for ignorance. Research universities offer sound guidance
in tending perennials gardens, emphasizing the need for good soil, water, occasional fertilizer (according to soil test recommendations) and deadheading to keep plants neat and flowers in continual bloom.

However, there is more to pruning perennials than lopping blooms as they fade. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust, an Ohio State University grad who has spent the past 40+ years designing and maintaining perennial gardens and researching ways to enhance their bloom, takes us through the many facets of perennial gardening.
photo by E Barth-Elias
It’s no coincidence that her first chapter begins with pruning perennials. She offers many reasons:

Extend bloom time: Pruning spent blossoms – deadheading – gives us extended bloom time and boosts plant vitality. Because the plant has been relieved of the task of setting seed, it can focus its efforts on creating new blossoms. If the plant doesn’t set seed, it will usually continue to bloom.

Promote new growth: Cutting back a bedraggled plant encourages new growth, which in turn extends its life. Plants flourish when they don’t have to support branches that are past their prime.

Delay or stagger bloom time: Suppose you have a special occasion where you want to show off your plants to best effect. Instead of allowing that huge stand of echinacea to bloom all at once, allow some flowers to continue growing while pruning mid-range and front-growing plants selectively so that some will bloom at the usual date and others bloom at staggered intervals. The longer flush of bloom adds interest by presenting a multi-tiered display.

Vary plant height: Tired of staking? Cut your taller plants back before they begin to bud. When they do bloom, the stems will be short enough to avoid needing to be propped.

Keep them where you want them: While an English garden is full of a variety of plants, it is not a hodge-podge. Plants need to learn to play well with others so they can all shine, whether that means cutting some past-prime plants back to the ground or trimming stragglers. The larger the garden and varieties of plants, the more this approach is needed.

Boost bloom size or quantity: Just as you can create many smaller flowers by clipping the plant’s terminal bud, you can also grow larger specimens by continually pinching side branches; the plant’s energy is funneled into that one show-stopping bloom.

Manage pests and diseases: Often, pruning is necessary to promote a healthy environment for plants, especially those susceptible to mildew or other diseases that thrive in damp, shady conditions.

Keep the plant looking its best: When a plant is done blooming, it may not look its best. Freshen it up by clipping off dead stems allowing the foliage to shine in the later-season garden.

Clean up: End-of-season cleanup requires a great deal of pruning to get the garden ready for winter.

Deepen the connection between you, your plants and with nature: While all this feels like a lot of work (it can be), it also offers one-on-one time with your garden and with nature. We often get caught up in the mechanics of gardening without giving ourselves time to remember why we started on this horticultural adventure.

At its core, gardening is a reacquaintance with the miracle that is nature. Use these moments of snipping, whacking and shearing to commune with your plants. When you’re done, not only will you have a well-tended garden, but you will be reminded that the plants help us as much as we help them.

DiSabato-Aust, Tracy. 2017. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, Third Edition. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

S Vradenburg
Creature Feature - The Babes of May
Baby racoons are born by April but generally remain in their dens until June.
photo by Jerry Cannon
“Tra, la, it’s May, the lusty month of May,” Guinevere sang in Camelot, and that she got right! Fickle April finally exits as pent-up May rushes in, virtually exploding with life. Buds burst! Grass greens! And those warmer temperatures don’t just help our gardens grow—they provide good conditions for animal to have their little sprouts. More daylight also means more time for parents to
find food for their young – yes, sometimes in our gardens. But even the most curmudgeonly gardener will soften at the sight of a baby – maybe. Let’s take a look at some springtime babies you may come across…

We’ll start with the obvious—those ever-present bunnies! A symbol of fertility and spring, rabbits are crazily prolific. It’s estimated that one pair of rabbits and their offspring could produce 350,000 rabbits in 5 years if all survived. Eastern cottontails are born in Ohio from March through the end of September, but peak season is April-May. You’ve probably come across a shallow nest in your lawn, lined with dry grass and fur from Mom’s body, holding an average of 5 kits; rabbits will nest almost anywhere so long as food and cover is nearby. Babies are born unable to see or hear, but they’re ready to leave Mom after only three weeks! (Tell that to the 25-year old living in the basement.) SEE HOW CUTE THEY ARE (and replay after they’ve decimated your garden…).
 
Yes, you’ve got white-tailed deer issues and so do I, but who could have a problem with an adorable fawn? From mid-May to July, Mom leaves the herd to give birth, choosing a spot with tall vegetation to hide her newborn (sometimes twins). Shortly after having her baby, Mom has licked the fawn clean, and coaxed it to stand and move to a new spot (with no smell of blood). Babies remain hidden for a month, camouflaged by their spots and lack of smell. They are weaned and leave Mom after about 3 months. If you come across a baby and Mom is nearby, watch out! Does may aggressively defend their young. Watch these cuties HERE.

Because they are nocturnal, you’re less likely to come across baby striped skunks, but litters of 4-6 kits are born April to May in dens, usually borrowed from foxes or woodchucks in fields, or under buildings or logs. Born blind and deaf, the kits remain in the dens for 6-8 weeks, then begin moonlight hunting forays with Mom. Skunk families stay together until the following spring. Another warning – by 4 months old those babies are sharpshooters with their smelly spray. WATCH THESE RESCUED BABY SKUNKS GROW..
 
Baby woodchucks are born from April to early June, in large, elaborate burrows dug in woodlands or fields where predators are easy to spot. Newborns weigh less than 2 ounces, but grow quickly, and after 9-11 weeks Mom forces them to move out of the den and into other burrows but continues to care for the babies, taking them to the best restaurant in town (i.e., your garden). Watch THE STORY OF "STEWIE", a baby groundhog who became part of a human family. 
 
The most common fox in Ohio, the red fox, lives in wooded areas surrounded by open lands. Babies (“kits”) are born in dens dug by Mom about four feet deep —look for them near rock piles, logs or the banks of streams. If you find one, it’s likely you’ll find foxes there next year as Moms reuse dens. Litters consisting of 5-6 kits are generally born in February-April. Mom and babies stay in the den for one month while Dad provides food, so by May you will see kits as they begin to venture out to play. The youngsters leave the family in the fall to live on their own. This great video shows A MOTHER FOX RESCUING HER KITS.
 
However you feel about adult coyotes, the pups are undeniably adorable. Coyotes adapt to almost any habitat so may be found anywhere, but they prefer bushes or trees to provide cover for their dens. Females select the site, which could be a hollow tree stump, rocks or burrows made by other animals, or they may dig their own den. Babies are born in April and May, and litters range from one to eleven pups (litter size can adjust based on food supply). Both parents care for the babies. By 3 weeks the pups begin to leave the den, and from 8-12 weeks they learn to hunt. The family stays together until mid-fall when the young leave to develop their own territories (females may remain). See how CUTE COYOTE PUPS are. Even that EERIE HOWL sounds cute when it comes from a baby.
 
So next time you step outside and Look Around, keep an eye out for the new spring growth that comes with paws and teeth, as well as leaves and flowers. It’s all part of life-giving, lusty May.

Read more about spring babies HERE.
C Christian
Slugs: UGH!
I’m sure there is someone out there who isn’t totally grossed out by slugs, but I haven’t met that person yet. Maybe it’s leftover trauma from watching “The Blob” in childhood. The very thought of slugs makes my skin crawl.

Slugs are in the phylum Mollusca. As gastropods, they literally travel on their stomachs. With 65,000 to 80,000 species, Mollusca are second only to insects in their presence in the animal kingdom. They live in a variety of habitats all over the globe, from woodland to desert to deep ocean. Slugs will always be with us, especially the ones that feast on our gardens. This year our wet, cold spring has been ideal for hatching a bumper crop.
photo by E Barth-Elias
Slugs can and will eat almost anything, taking in more than their weight daily of a huge variety of ornamental plants, vegetables and fruit. They chew using their mouth, or radula, which contains thousands of replaceable teeth. Most feeding causes aesthetic damage, unattractive holes and ragged edges, but slugs can kill seedlings and small plants.

These creatures are hermaphroditic, meaning each slug can reproduce without a partner. They hatch as males and grow female reproductive organs as they reach sexual maturity. A slug can lay up to six batches of eggs per season, a single batch is usually about 50 eggs.

Ragged holes and dried mucus tracks are clear signs that slugs are present. Nocturnal creatures, they hide under rocks or any flat surface that provides shelter from the sun. Ground covers give them a cool, shady place to wait until the next midnight foray.

Once you know slugs are present, Integrated Pest Management skills are invaluable. Finding the least harmful control method starts with how you manage your garden. Culturally, remove slug-friendly environments by spacing plants to allow for good air circulation. Trim trees and keep leaf litter to a minimum to create a sunny, dry garden – slugs hate sunny, dry gardens. Water plants in the morning or, if possible, use drip irrigation to keep moisture off leaves.

Diatomaceous earth is a physical way to deter slugs. Its dry, gravelly quality irritates the slug’s slimy body. Its main drawback is that it must be reapplied after every rain. Slugs find yeasty liquids attractive. Mix water with yeast – save the beer for the party – in containers deep enough so that the slug drowns when it falls in.

Another physical control is to use a slug’s desire for damp darkness. Place small boards around the garden. Each morning turn the boards over; you will likely find your quarry. Smash at will, but resist the temptation to stomp slugs while you’re still in the garden. You don’t want to squish any eggs the slug might be harboring and release them into the soil, providing an inadvertent nursery for new slugs.

Copper mesh or strips set around plants effectively deter the pests because the surface generates a small electric shock when the slime hits the metal. Encouraging toads and snakes to live in your garden provides ready predators. Salt is effective in drying slugs’ bodies, but can harm plants.

Finally, there are chemical solutions. The University of Minnesota’s Julie Weisenhorn and Jeff Hahn suggest baits of iron phosphate or ferric sodium EDTA as two chemicals that are effective in killing slugs and relatively safe in the garden. Another poison, metaldehyde, is very effective but is also attractive to pets and other animals. Look for products with these chemicals as active ingredients, and use with caution. As with any pesticide, follow the label exactly.

Even if the ick factor of slugs doesn’t get to you, remember that slugs are simply slithering slimy snails without a shell. They will show your plants no mercy. You should return the favor.



S Vradenburg
On the Cutting Edge
Celocia spicata 'Flamingo Feather' mixes happily in the border
photo by K Edgington
One of a gardener’s summer pleasures is a trip out to the garden to gather flowers for the dinner table or a bouquet delivery. Do you need a dedicated spot, a garden bed, or acreage to plant a cutting garden? Certainly not! Cutting flowers can be tucked into garden nooks and crannies and will mix happily with perennials and shrubs. In the veggie garden, plant cutting flowers between rows of vegetables, in groups at the garden entrance, or any spot that becomes available. Not only do cut flowers add beauty, they lure the pollinators needed for fruit production. Seven or nine plants mixed into borders or ornamental beds become part of your garden design, and cutting the flowers will stimulate new buds. Mix up your flower varieties to enhance visual interest. What fun!


Cutting flower plants typically have tall stems and flowers with a long vase life. Favorites include zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons, dahlias and sunflowers. Not-as-common types include larkspur, sweet peas, dianthus, bachelor buttons, and taller cultivars of ageratum. When choosing flowering plants for cutting purposes, take into consideration your color preferences and shades that will enhance each other. Think outside the box – shades of pink can make a lovely bouquet, but the drama of deep purples combined with red or orange can be a stunner. Choose a variety of flower shapes to add interest to your creations: spikes, round, saucer, bell, or sprays.

Many cutting flowers can be seeded directly into the garden (cosmos, zinnias, marigolds to name a few), but the majority will not begin producing until mid-summer. Starting seeds indoors in early spring gives these plants a head start. I learned this the hard way when I planted flowers to cut for my oldest daughter’s late June wedding. Daughter number two’s wedding was better provisioned. It is past time to sow cutting garden seeds indoors for this season, but most nurseries will have cell packs of many varieties. Make a calendar note to purchase seed early next year and start interesting types under lights in late March for earlier blooms.

Care for your cutting garden flowers as you would your other ornamental plants. Space them to provide good air flow and reduce disease pressure, support stems that are wont to bend or bow, and watch for and attend to pests that can damage leaves and flowers. 

Don’t forget to plant pockets of the foliage plants that complete your bouquets: dill, alternanthera, Swiss chard, purple basil, parsley.

Here are a few cutting flowers you may want to try:

Love in a mist (Nigella damascene): Plant this beauty once and it will reseed for years to come. Both flowers and seed heads add a delicate beauty to bouquets. Check it out HERE

Gomphrena (Gomphrena globose):  I wouldn’t be without this gorgeous addition to flower beds and bouquets. Its globe-shaped flowers provide wonderful contrast. Check it out HERE

Ammi (Ammi majus): This member of the carrot family closely resembles Queen Ann’s Lace and adds a graceful airiness to bouquets. Check it out HERE.

Celosia (Celosia plumosa, cristata, & spicata): We know these plants as “cockscomb” but many of the cultivars stray away from that traditional form and provide plume or wheat-like flower heads in shades from pastel pinks and purples to brilliant fuchsia, reds and oranges. Gorgeous! Check it out HERE

White mignonette (Reseda alba): This is a great but little-known cutting flower with sprigs of blooms that fill and add a delicate note to bouquets. The seed heads are beautiful as well, and pollinators love this plant. Check it out HERE.

Now is the time to plant cutting flowers in your garden beds for the pleasure of their beauty in your garden and in a vase in months to come.  
K Edgington
Down and Dirty
May Checklist
  • Plant summer flowers and vegetables after the last frost. On average, the last spring frost occurs on May 15th in the Akron area.
  • Monitor newly planted flowers and vegetables and be prepared to protect plants during the inevitable cold snap.
  • Hang hummingbird feeders in time for the May migration.
  • Transition houseplants to an outside patio once the danger of frost has passed. Avoid direct sun until plants are acclimated.
  • Stake peonies now so stems grow through the supports.   
  • Mulch flower beds (and vegetables) once the soil has warmed.
  • Spray periodically for rabbits, deer, and other foraging guests. Tender perennials are a favorite.
J Gramlich
New Growth!
To learn more please check out these programs :

Meet Me in the Garden Series. Offered in-person at Summit Metro Parks Nature Realm auditorium. Registration required.

  • Native Plants: Practical Gardening Tips with Sonia Bingham from Native Roots, Inc. and Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Wednesday, May 25th at 7:00 pm.

  • The Magic and Lore of Heirloom Plants and Their Role in Our Modern Gardens with Brian Gregory, Senior Horticulturalist with Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens on Wednesday, June 22nd at 7:00 pm.


Learn more about and register for these programs on our website (link below).

_______________________________

IT'S BACK and Time to Buy Tickets!

The Summit County Master Gardener Tour of Gardens

including our "must-visit" Posie Shoppe

Mark Your Calendar For

Saturday, June 25th, from 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 pm

General admission tickets are $25.
Sponsors, with tickets available at varying levels,
are recognized in the tour booklet and may attend a catered
pre-tour breakfast and early access to the Posie Shoppe.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available at these sites: Dayton Nurseries, Suncrest Gardens, Graf's Garden Shop, The Bird Store and More in Fairlawn, and on the Summit County Master Gardener website.


Visit our website for further details and updates.

More learning opportunities:
Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger, comes dancing from the east, and leads with her the flowery May, who from her green lap throws the yellow cowslip and the pale primrose. Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire mirth, and youth, and warm desire! Woods and groves are of thy dressing; hill and dale doth boast thy blessing. Thus we salute thee with our early song, and welcome thee, and wish thee long.
John Milton, Song on a May Morning, 1660
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The Root of It staff: Karen Edgington (Editor), Emma Barth-Elias (Photo Editor), Carolyn Christian, Jennifer Gramlich, Sarah Vradenburg, and Geoff Kennedy (Technical Advisor)
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