Volume 1 Issue 2 | October 2020
During this month of tricks and treats we offer this gardening “treat”. Join us as we plant bulbs, learn about bats, and celebrate a golden time.
Look Around
There’s magic in the air! Nature’s rhythm seems to speed up these fall days as plants and wildlife prepare for the coming cold months. Days shorten, shadows lengthen, green turns to brown, and bright-colored leaves drift from above to the ground. In coming weeks we’ll rediscover the “bones” of the trees that were verdant masses just a month ago---their differing silhouettes reflect their species.  Can you tell them apart? The sugar and water concentrations in tree cells change as they move into a dormant state. This helps them tolerate the cold temperatures to come.  Nature is truly marvelous in its adaptations!  Ornamental grasses have bronzed and rustle as they sway in the fall breezes. We consider hoarding a problem or disorder, but now the animal world is rife with hoarding as food is gathered and stored for winter consumption.  It’s a good thing. Squirrels and chipmunks scurry about as they cache their stores of nuts to prepare for the barren months to come.  Blue jays and crows are also stockpiling fruits and insects. Chickadees cache their seed stores under bark, among pine needles, under shingles, or other niches.  How amazing that they remember where each meal is stored! 

We’ve seen the geese flying south in their precise V formations, as house finches and Carolina wrens arrive from the north to this, their winter feeding ground. Watch for sandhill and whooping cranes as they pass through on their way south. 

As gardeners we anticipate the coming winter and clean up our beds, sow our cover crops, and plant tulip, daffodil and garlic bulbs. We like to leave a “neat” garden and yard, but remember that many animals, like polyphemus moths, require the fallen leaves and garden debris for their winter sojourn.  What beauty in spring when these glorious moths emerge from their cocoons! Look around.

Leaf Brief - Flame Grass
For nearly year-round beauty, ease of care, and visual impact, few plants compare to ornamental grasses. Often overlooked, perennial grasses can find a place in every landscape, especially in the fall garden when many plants are going dormant. These hardworking plants provide privacy, structure, texture, movement and yes, fall color. They can also be a wildlife habitat and control erosion. One variety that comes on strong in October is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’, also known as flame grass, maiden grass or Eulalia.

Take care when choosing a grass for your garden because many species can be invasive or simply grow to be very large. This Purpurascens cultivar of miscanthus forms a compact 3-4 feet tall clump of reddish tinged blades in summer which gradually develops more reddish hues and eventually turns a bright orange-red in the fall. It’s not done yet, though as it darkens to burgundy by winter.  In addition, it develops tassel-like flowers in late summer which turn into creamy white plumes by fall. It does not have fertile seeds so it is not considered invasive.

Care is minimal if planted in full to part sun and moderate moisture. Near a pond or a low spot in your yard is ideal, but it will tolerate drought conditions, air pollution, road salt and black walnut trees.  It’s best to wait until spring to cut back flame grass to protect the plant and overwintering larvae and to provide visual winter interest. Clumps can be divided in spring. Pests and diseases are not a significant concern. A dose of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall is helpful, though not essential. 

If you need something smaller, you might consider blue oat grass, Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’, which has a silvery blue color well into winter and performs well in dry conditions. It grows 2.5’ – 3’ tall. Another good option is little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, which grows 2-4' tall and has striking bronze-orange fall color.
Creature Feature - Bats
It’s that spooooky time of year! Gaze at the glowing moon, and you may glimpse a shadow streak across the sky – straight into your attic! No worries, it’s just a BAT! Bats are amazing creatures that have gotten a bad rap. Let’s clear up some of the most common misconceptions…

Bats are flying rodents. Bats are not rodents. You (primates) are more closely related to rodents than bats. Bats are the only mammal that flies (flying squirrels glide). Look at the skin between your fingers. Imagine it growing bigger and thinner - whoops you’ve got bat wings (some scientists believe bats had hands that evolved into wings). And they are really fast – some have been clocked at over 100 mph! More bat facts: https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/collections/natural-history/natural-history-blog/2015/october-2015/all-about-bats

Bats suck blood. Most bats eat pesky insects – incredible amounts of mosquitoes, moths, beetles and flies. One bat can eat thousands in a single night. Certain bats eat fruit, nectar and pollen, serving as major pollinators and seed dispersers. Some 300 species of fruits depend on bats for pollination, including bananas, avocadoes and mangoes, and bats spread seeds for almonds, cashews, figs and cacoa. Bats play a major role in rainforest reforestation. They are hugely important to the environment. 

They still suck blood. Yes, three species in Mexico, Central and South America eat blood. They make a tiny incision in their prey and lap it up. Yuck. On the plus side, scientists have discovered a natural agent in bat saliva that prevents blood from clotting. This blood thinning compound has been used to develop an anticoagulant that may help heart attack or stroke patients. Naturally it is called Draculin!

I’m blind as a bat. You’re not, because bats are not blind. Some see quite well. But because bats hunt in the dark at high speeds, they use a sonar system called echolocation to locate prey, bouncing sound off objects. Scientists are studying this amazing ability to develop navigational aids for humans!

I’ve never seen a bat - they must not be around. Bats are shy, nocturnal and everywhere. 20% of the world’s mammals are bats. Of the 14 species identified in Ohio (1400 worldwide!), little brown and big brown bats are most common. Active from March to September, by Halloween these bats are holed up for the winter in cozy spots like caves, mines, and possibly your attic. The natural roosting spot for bats is hollow trees or under peeling bark, but humans also provide good habitats, and bats can invite themselves in through a thumb-sized hole. Brown bats establish colonies in the spring to have their pups, so if you don’t want batty guests you must exclude them before May or after August, to make sure pups aren’t separated from moms. If you do have bats in your belfry, you might try building them a bat house once they’ve been excluded. See: https://bygl.osu.edu/node/422

Bats carry rabies. You are statistically more likely to die from leprosy than rabies from a bat bite. However, bats will bite, so take all precautions if you must handle one, or leave it to experts. Bat droppings (guano) can harbor a fungus that causes histoplasmosis, symptoms can be mild or severe. Care should be used around large amounts of bat or bird droppings. See: batworld.org/rabies-info/

A face only a mother could love… With their pointy noses, beady eyes, and razor-sharp teeth, bats are not exactly cuddly. However, this video might change your mind…
I don’t give a fig about bats. You should. The bat population is severely at risk. Bats’ biggest enemies are loss of habitat and disease. White-Nose Syndrome has killed millions of bats since its introduction to the U.S. in 2006 (brought from Europe on the boots of a caver who had been spelunking in Europe, where bats are not impacted by it). Bats produce one pup a year (one of the slowest reproducing mammals on earth). See Batcon.org, to learn how you can help these amazing creatures.  And don’t forget to celebrate Bat Week Oct. 24-31! https://batweek.org/

Bats turn into creepy people who wear capes and a lot of sunscreen. Don’t be silly. I gotta go - Acme’s having a sale on garlic and wooden stakes...
Cool Tool - Bulb Planter
It’s time to plant bulbs. Whether you spent the spring and summer cruising
through and ordering from the myriad of bulb catalogs that beguile you with fields of color, or you’re heading to the garden center now, there’s a point at which the knee pads hit the dirt. Maybe.

Bulb planting tools fall into two categories. Each is designed to remove 2.5” to 3” circles of soil and create a hole into which the bulb is planted. Almost all have markings to ensure bulbs are planted at the appropriate depth. Many are a variation on a cylinder. The other is an auger.

In addition to soil knives or trowels, which can double as bulb planters, the most common form of bulb planter is the cylinder.
Many are about 8-10” in length with a blade – stainless, carbon or coated steel or aluminum and a telescoping handle. The serrated, opened blade digs in, closes and lifts the soil from the hole, then opens again to release the soil.

Some have tapered, pointed blades that slice easily through heavier soil. Most, but not all, have long, wooden handles and foot pegs to create holes without the need to bend over. Such a tool comes in handy when the bulb count exceeds 50. Or 20. Or whatever number makes your back cry “uncle.”

There are short-handled, tapered blades with smaller circumferences suited to planting small bulbs such as crocuses and snowdrops.

An auger is a rotating drill bit that loosens and forces the soil up and out of the hole. Bulb augers vary in length, to 24”. The longer they are, the better able the user is to make holes without bending over.

Bring in the Garden - Succulent Topped Pumpkin
While a vase of flowers brightens and beautifies a home, a pumpkin-succulent combination offers another timely and dramatic way to bring your garden indoors. Succulents fill the bill with their varied colors and shapes. Add a bright pumpkin and you can have months of color and interest.  This project uses succulent cuttings, the short branches or end tips on your succulent plant. You can harvest the tips from tender succulents you've brought inside to overwinter or purchase succulents at your nursery or box store. A flat pumpkin works well, but also consider using mini pumpkins, which brighten a desk-top, compliment table settings, and offer the perfect gift for porch drop-offs.
demo 2

  • A flat pumpkin or squash with a depression where the stem originates
  • Adhesive spray (available at craft stores)
  • A hot glue gun or other fast and strong adhesive
  • Sphagnum or sheet moss (available at craft stores)
  • Assorted succulent cuttings (look for varied color and shape)
  • Small cones or nuts (optional)

  1. Plug in your hot glue gun for optimal warming. 
  2. Spray a circular area around the pumpkin stem with spray adhesive and immediately press your moss onto the sprayed area. The moss should be ½ to 1 inch thick.
  3. Using your hot glue gun, start gluing your succulent cutting onto the moss, placing the larger and focal point cuttings first and then filling in, using taller cuttings in the center and working from the center to the outside. Using a group of three or more cuttings can create a focal point or the illusion of a floral spray. Narrow succulent strands can be placed to cascade down the sides of the pumpkin.  Floral pins may be used to secure large pieces, but the holes created in the pumpkin may cause it to decay more rapidly.
  4. Fill in with small pine cones, nuts, or other seasonal items as desired.
Centerpiece care:
Spritz weekly to keep the succulents fresh. Bright light will help the succulents root, but is not necessary for the appearance of the centerpiece. With regular moisture and bright light many succulents will root into the moss after several weeks.

When your pumpkin starts to deteriorate or you are ready to remove it, cut a circle into the pumpkin just around the area of succulent cuttings. Place the circle on potting soil, place in bright light, and water when dry. When the pumpkin shell deteriorates the cuttings will root into the soil and can be transplanted into permanent pots.

For the Sprouts - Leaf Critters
Hoot Hoo Hello! I’m Owen, a Great Horned Owl. I live in a big tree in Cuyahoga Falls, and as you would expect, I am very wise. I know lots of fun things to do outdoors and in the garden, and my Master Gardener friends have asked me to share them with you!
Can you identify these animals? Leaf critters are a wonderful way to enjoy our beautiful fall leaves. Let these pictures inspire you, then go outside and collect some leaves!

Arrange the leaves in the shape of a critter on a piece of paper. Shape them with scissors if you’d like. When you are happy with your critter, glue or tape the leaves in place. Add details like feet and eyes with a marker, yarn or other materials you may have. Use your imagination! Display your critter on a wall, or use it to decorate cards, paper bags or the dinner table. Hoo hoot, an owl critter is the coolest!  

Branching Out - Holden Arboretum
In fall, eyes turn up and outward for the color extravaganza put on by Northeast Ohio trees. While a drive on a highway or country road offers visual treats, few places give visitors more up-close views of the changing hues than Holden Arboretum.
The arboretum, which was founded in 1931 as the 1,000-acre gift of industrialist Arthur F. Holden, straddles Lake and Geauga counties. It now encompasses 3,500 acres featuring miles of hiking trails, fishing ponds and plant collections along with seasonally related activities and fun of all kinds for adventurers.
Just past the Corning Visitor Center near the Blueberry pond is “Tilt-a-Whirl,” an undulating sculpture built of willow twigs and saplings. The multi-roomed, roofless structure was created by Chapel Hill, N.C. artist Patrick Dougherty and sits atop a grassy mound and suggests a home for magical creatures. Dougherty has created more than 300 such living sculptures, making Tilt-a-Whirl the newest part in his Stickwork collection. True to its wild nature, Tilt-a-Whirl will remain in place for at least a year, fading away as nature takes its course.
Every autumn, visitors, particularly families with children, are encouraged to walk the Leaf Trail. It offers opportunities to identify 28 different trees, their structure and leaf shape, along with fun, after-visit activities. The trees are marked in the free pamphlet and identified by signage along the trail. While the trail can take as long as one wants, staff estimate it usually takes about 45 minutes.
The Murch Canopy Walk and Kalberer Emergent Tower take visitors above the forest floor. The canopy walk rises 65 feet from the ground, and the tower soars 120 feet up, its wide platform offering climbers a 360-degree panorama of trees and a glimpse of Lake Erie. Both attractions are included in the $15 admission. There are discounts for children, seniors and other groups. Reservations are required. Go to holdenarb.org for reservations. All activities and attractions practice social distancing.

Holden beckons us to a year-round relationship with Mother Nature. In the fall, that invitation comes clothed in reds and yellows and oranges and greens. It’s an invitation too hard to ignore.
Holden Arboretum
9500 Sperry Road
Kirtland, OH 44094-5172
Down and Dirty
October Checklist
  • Change out your patio pots. Replace tired annuals with pansies, grasses, ornamental kale, pumpkins or scarecrows. Get creative!
  • Continue planting spring bulbs until the ground freezes.
  • Dig up tender bulbs and tubers like dahlias, canna lilies, gladiolus and caladiums. Store in a cool, dry location. https://wimastergardener.org/article/storing-tender-bulbs-for-winter/
  • Divide overcrowded perennials and plant larger trees and shrubs.
  • Store or winterize water features like bird baths, fountains, waterfalls, etc.
  • Plant garlic for next year’s harvest
New Growth!
To learn more please check out :
Summit County Master Gardeners on Facebook
Summit County Master Gardener Community Gardening Newsletter
Follow us on Instagram: Find us by our user name osusummitmgv and follow us for educational information, gardening tips, and news and events related to the Summit County Master Gardener Program.
Submit questions online to be answered by Master Gardener Volunteers at Ask a Master Gardener
OhioLine Yard and Garden provides fact sheets and information on a variety of gardening topics.
Buckeye Yard and Garden onLine provides timely information about Ohio growing conditions, pest, disease, and cultural problems. BYGL is updated weekly between April and October.
What magic there is in the wand that autumn wields when it pours its stream of gold on harvest fields; a loveliness tinting all that shines to the eyes with purple curtains let down from the skies;…..The bees are filling their hives with a dusty gold, and the heart is filled with more than a heart can hold. — Vincent Godfrey Burns   

Master Gardener Volunteer Basic Training to be Offered Fall 2020
Are you a lifelong learner? Want the opportunity to learn from experts? Want to share your love of gardening and horticulture with others?

OSU Master Gardeners are plant lovers who receive plant education from The Ohio State University and then teach others about gardening. We are not plant experts going in, and in fact can begin the training with minimal plant knowledge. The 2020 Basic Training class will be offered on-line via Zoom on Monday and Wednesday nights 6-9 pm beginning Oct. 19. If you would like to learn more about becoming a Summit County Master Gardener Volunteer and to access the application see:

We invite you to share The Root of It with your gardening friends and family. If you received this email as a forward and would like to subscribe to our mailing list please visit our website, scroll to the bottom, and follow the link under Join our email list.
The Root of It staff: Karen Edgington, Carolyn Christian, Jennifer Gramlich, Sarah Vradenburg, and Emma Barth-Elias (Photographer)
We Would Like your Feedback
To contact us with ideas or suggestions email us at: newsletterscmg@gmail.com

To discontinue receiving this newsletter please click on the UPDATE YOUR PROFILE link below. You may then choose what types of information you would like to receive from us.