Fairy Rings

The Science of Fairy Rings

Fairy Rings are fungi are in the soil to break down old tree stumps, roots, logs and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings. Once the material is exhausted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take many years. Several fairy rings may appear close together, especially in lawns that were previously wooded areas.

Types and Treatments of Fairy Rings

When these fungi digest the organic material, they expel nitrogen. This is why the grass looks seemingly happy in the fairy ring. However, sometimes the opposite effect can happen, which depletes soil nutrients and produces toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

Approximately 50 species of fungi in the Basidiomycetes family are known to cause fairy rings in turf; however, there are only three outcomes:

  • Variety A: The most inconspicuous type of fairy ring. The dark ring of grass is absent. Only parts of the ring will show fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at different times of the year, mostly during wet springs.
    • Remove the mushrooms to help retard the spread in the area. Don’t over-water.
  • Variety B: It’s the dark green rings, with or without mushrooms, which identify these varieties of fairy rings. At worst, this type of ring can appear unsightly with its lush growth, accompanied with mushrooms.
    • Remove any mushrooms and use a balanced fertilizer to green up the rest of the lawn so the ring is not as obvious.
  • Variety C: This variety of fairy ring is the most destructive and damaging as it produces a ring of dead grass. The dead area can contain fruiting bodies. Pull a soil profile from the dead area, white thread-like structures called mycelia will be visible in the soil. Mycelium is hydrophobic. Because of this property, it causes water to move away from the circle, thus drying out the grass.

There are really no fast cures for fairy rings that aren’t extreme. Digging up the area to remove the organic matter the fungi is feeding on, along with all of the adjacent soil is one method. According to some scientists, fairy rings do not cross. Some have said that digging up soil from one fairy ring and exchanging it for another has worked. Spraying fungicides are ineffective and a waste of money.

It is best to just be proactive in how you maintain the lawn. Do not over-water or over-fertilize, and be sure to aerate in the spring.

There’s another theory about how fairy rings are created…

Fairies create the circles by dancing within them.

dancing fairies

Some cultures believe these circles to be dangerous to humans. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies then force the intruder to dance till exhausted, dead or in the throes of madness.

The only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times, under a full moon and in the direction of the sun. Doing this permits the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground.

Other cultures still believe in fairy activity and that fairy rings are omens of good fortune. Some legends see fairy circles as places of fertility and fortune. The Welsh believe that mountain sheep eating the grass from a fairy ring flourish and crops sown around tend to grow better. Irish folklore believe fairy rings are gateways into Elvin kingdoms.

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The Language of Flowers: Bouquet Stories

Whether it be a budding, new relationship bouquet of clematis, rose, and dill, or a get-out-of-the-doghouse one of narcissus and daisy; flowers speak a language of their own and all flowers have their own language.

Some Flower History

Lady Mary Wortley Montague, wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople, introduced the language of flowers [floriography] to the European aristrocrats during the early 18th century. Symbolic meanings were attached to flowers, and by arranging them in a bouquet or ‘tussie-mussie’, a message was conveyed.   “Le Language des Fleurs” by Madame Charlotte de la Tour (Louise Cortambert), was the first book written on floriography and is still a great reference. 

If the meaning wasn’t a secret, cards attached to the arrangement translated the message.

The Guide

Below is a guide to some popular flower varieties, but be aware that interpretations often change from place to place. Go here for a more complete list of flower meanings.

Azalea = Temperance

Basil = Love / Hate

Camellia = Excellence

Carnation = Divine love

Chrysanthemum = Longevity

Clematis = Mental Beauty

Dahlia = Instability

Daisy = Innocence

Dill = Irresistiblility

Forget-me-not = Remembrance

Geranium = Meloncholy

Gladiolus = Generosity

Iris = Good News

Hydrangea = Boastfulness

Jasmine = Seperation

Lavender = Distrust

Lilac = New love

Lily = Majesty

Marigold = Grief

Mock Orange = Deception

Narcissus = Egotism

Orange Blossom = Chastity

Pansy = Fond Memories

Parsley = Festivity

Rose [red] = Love / Beauty

Rose [pink] = Happiness / Joy

Rose [yellow] = Infidelity / Friendship

Rose [white] =Purity / Silence

Rosemary = Rememberance

Sweet William = Gallantry

Thyme = Courage

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Keep An African Violet Blooming (Almost) All Year

An African Violet is one of the easiest flowering houseplants to own. Therefore, this makes them a popular with black-thumbs and folks that may not have lots of time or energy to care for a plant. It’s easy to see if the plant is in need of water, due to the clear glass water reservoir. And with a good initial set-up and some minor care, African Violets will bloom ten months out of the year.

How to care for your African Violet:

African Violet Bowl
My homemade African Violet bowl

African Violets require a special acidic soil that must be kept moist. Because of this, a normal growing pot is not recommended. There are two types of pots: one type uses capillary action via a wick within the soil and a pot-within-a-pot soaking in water. I created the latter with a glass bowel, decorative rocks and a terracotta pot.

When it comes to watering, there’s certainly nothing easier than an African Violet. Both type pots have a reservoir that only needs refilling with quality, non-softened water. No guesswork involved.

To help maintain the flowering of the plant, be sure to give is a dose of liquid fertilizer according to the labels directions.

African Violets can bloom 10 months out of the year. Care is the key to keeping it in bloom.african violet pot

Maintaining a good watering schedule is important. They can go a few days being empty, and it is ok to do that periodically, just not to “droop” status. If the whole plant is drooping, water from above and fully soak pot to revive, careful not to wet leaves.

Always use good water. African Violets like it a bit more acidic and my Midwestern water is alkaline. Consequently, bottled or filtered water works well, but room temperature, melted snow is slightly acidic and a better choice if available.

Rinse off the rocks and container, monthly to avoid fungus (green) which may grow in the water, or the pot will develop a white film on it, due to mineral build-up. An old toothbrush works without using any soap. It’s OK to let a bit of water to run through the pot, as it rinses the mineral salts thru the soil and out the sides of pot, just keep the leaves as dry as possible.

African violet containerPrune off the dead flowers with a scissors, don’t pull. Just trim the individual dead flower, as the rest of the main stem might still be blooming. This steps-up additional flower production for the plant.

Remember, it is seriously stressful for the plant to flower (think pregnancy!) Therefore, after a good run of blooming, the plant may chill, and just be green for awhile. Be happy with that, and anticipate blooms after a short rest. Generally, stores sell these in bloom so people would buy them. That means the non-blooming rest period may come sooner than you expected.

Prune off any bad looking leaves at anytime with scissors, don’t pull at them. The leaves that rest on the pot may get damaged/bent with age, promptly remove them if this happens.

Talk to your African Violet, it likes to listen to your problems… (it certainly also wants your CO2)

© Wellness Garden Design

FAQ’s

What type of pot should I use for an African Violet?

African Violets require a special acidic soil that must be kept moist. Because of this, a normal growing pot is not recommended. There are two types of pots: one type uses capillary action via a wick within the soil and a pot-within-a-pot soaking in water. I created the latter with a glass bowel, decorative rocks and a terracotta pot. African violet container

What is the easiest houseplant to care for?

An African Violet is one of the easiest flowering houseplants to own. Therefore, this makes them a popular with black-thumbs and folks that may not have lots of time or energy to care for a plant. It’s easy to see if the plant is in need of water, due to the clear glass water reservoir. And with a good initial set-up and some minor care, African Violets will bloom ten months out of the year. African violet

How do I keep an African Violet Blooming?

Prune off the dead flowers with a scissors, don’t pull. Just trim the individual dead flower, as the rest of the main stem might still be blooming. This steps-up additional flower production for the plant.
During the summer months African Violets can be moved outdoors in a partly-sunny location. When the temperatures get below 50F it’s time to bring them inside. Place them in a South or West window for the most available sunlight. Most flowering plants also require a dark period to bloom. Make sure there are no nightlights in the vicinity. african violet pot

Picking Your Perfect Poinsettia

No more picking your holiday poinsettia and having it fail before the holidays. With these great tips, not only will your poinsettia be a perfect highlight for your table, it can also be next year’s guest!

A Little History First…

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are woody shrubs native to Mexico and Central America where grow up to 10 feet in height. The Aztec Indians cultivated and regarded them as a symbol of purity before Christianity infiltrated the area. They also used the plant to make a reddish-purple dye and harvested the milky latex sap to counteract fever.

Franciscan priests settled near Taxco, Mexico during the 17th century and began to use the flower in their nativity displays because of its appropriate holiday color and blooming time.

A bit later, Joel Robert Poinsett introduced poinsettias into the United States in 1825. He was serving as the first United States ambassador to Mexico, where he discovered wild poinsettias growing on the hillsides near the city of Taxco. Poinsett shipped plants to his home greenhouses in Greenville, South Carolina and began sharing plants with botanical gardens and horticultural friends.

However, it was the Ecke Family of California are were breeders significantly responsible for getting the poinsettia into homes for Christmas. In 1900, Albert Ecke emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles. He wanted to settle in a place where growing could take place year-round. Albert had always been fascinated by the poinsettia, as it bloomed in November and not many other plants did. Consequently, he started growing poinsettias, as they were also a great alternative crop to grow when nothing else was. With lots of great marketing on the Ecke family’s part, they single-handily promoted the poinsettia as the Christmas bloom no home should be without!

Picking your Perfect Poinsettia:

fresh Poinsettia
Not Blooming Yet

old poinsettia
Already Bloomed
  • Be sure to choose a plant with dark green foliage. Avoid fallen or damaged leaves as this indicates poor handling, fertilization, lack of water or a root disease problem.
  • Comparatively, avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges, as this is a sign of insufficient maturity.
  • At the same time, be sure to check the underside of the leaves for insects.
  • The colorful flower bracts should be in proportion to the plant and pot size.
  • Little or no pollen should be showing on the actual flowers, the red or green button-like parts in the center of the colorful bracts. This indicates a younger plant.
  • If you are planning on reblooming your plant for next year, examine the branching structure. For example, if the plants are grown single stem (non-branched with several plants per pot), these cultivars do not branch well and will not form attractive plants for a second year.

Quick Fact: Poinsettias are NOT poisonous!! This rumor was proven false by Ohio State University in 1971, but nonetheless hasn’t stopped the rumor-mill.

Perfect Poinsettia Care:

  • Use a plant sleeve or a large, roomy shopping bag to protect your plant when transporting it. Let it ride ‘shotgun’ if possible (inside the car). Go directly home with your precious package!
  • Place your plant in indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day. If direct sun can’t be avoided, diffuse the light with a shade or sheer curtain.
  • Do not place plants near cold drafts or excessive heat. Also, avoid placing plants near appliances, fireplaces or ventilating ducts or the top of a TV.
  • Provide room temperatures between 60° F-70° F. Avoid temperatures below 50° F.
  • Water your plant when the soil feels dry to the touch. * Use lukewarm water.
  • Do NOT over water your plant, or allow it to sit in standing water. Temporarily remove the fancy dressing foil to allow H2O to drain.
  • No fertilizer when the plant is in bloom.

How to Reflower Your Poinsettia In Detail!

Late Winter and Early Spring:

  • In general, poinsettias have long-lasting flowers; their bracts will remain showy for several months. During this time, side shoots will develop below the bracts and grow up above the old flowering stems.
  • To develop a well-shaped plant for the following year, cut each of the old flowering stems or branches back to 4 to 6 inches in height in February or early March. Leave one to three leaves on each of the old stems or branches, as new growth comes from buds located in the leaf axils. Therefore, cutting the plant back will cause the buds to grow and develop.
  • Keep the plant in a semi-sunny window at a temperature between 60° F and 70° F degrees and water as described above.
  • Fertilize as needed every 2 weeks.
  • The plants can be repotted at this time with a commercial potting soil or an equal mixture of soil, sphagnum peat and one of the following: sand, vermiculite or perlite.

Late Spring and Summer Care:

  • After the temperatures reach over 55° F regularly, choose a wind protected, sunny location with some protection from midday and afternoon sun for your poinsettia.
  • Sink the pot to the rim in a well-drained soil. Rotate the pot every few weeks to break off the roots growing out of the drainage hole.
  • Frequently check water needs, as the soil can dry out quickly in summer. This is why I suggest sinking the pot into the soil, where more water can be available to the roots.
  • Fertilize monthly according to directions with a balanced (10-10-10) houseplant fertilizer.
  • Between May 15 and August 1, cut off the tips of the plant, to get a shorter, bushier plant with more branches.

Fall Care:

  • Take your poinsettia indoors to its semi-sunny location well before the temperatures start going below 55° F. An artificial light source is often required to supplement low fall and winter sunlight.
  • Fertilize every 2 weeks.
  • To reflower your poinsettia, you must keep the plant in complete darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. daily (14 hours) from the end of September until color shows in the bracts (early December-ish*). An unused closet or right sized box works well. This is the MOST IMPORTANT rule to follow!!!
  • Temperatures should remain between 60° F and 70° F. Night temperatures above 70° F to 75° F may delay or prevent flowering.
  • If you follow this procedure, the poinsettia will flower for Christmas.
  • In the event you don’t see color forming by the first week of December, something has gone amiss in the process. As a result, you may need to consider purchasing new ones if you must have blooms for your holidays.

To clarify, if the plant is not ‘put to bed’ regularly and correctly, it will not rebloom. Even missing a few nights can blow the schedule. This is generally why I just compost mine and buy new next year… I call it the ‘Hassle Factor’. If something is too much of a hassle to do, or outweighs the price of replacement, I will just repurchase to avoid the hassle!!

To Summarize:

Poinsettia growth chart

Wellness Garden Design

Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus; Do You Know the Difference?

Most likely, if you’re buying a blooming holiday cactus before the holidays, its a Thanksgiving cactus, not a Christmas cactus.

I can’t begin to tell you how often I see stores advertising Thanksgiving cactus as Christmas cactus. (And we’re not even going to bring up their bastard cousin, the Easter cactus – Schlumbergera gaertneri.) It all comes down to the blooming time. Thanksgiving cacti start blooming at Thanksgiving, whereas Christmas cacti start blooming at Christmas. Not that it really matters if it’s a Thanksgiving Cactus or a Christmas Cactus, however don’t you want to be in-the-know?

The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are popular winter-flowering houseplants native to South America and come in many colors: red, rose, purple, cream, white, peach and orange. The Schlumbergera species grow as epiphytes (non-parasitic plants that grow upon others) in the rain forests.

Thanksgiving Cactus

Thanksgiving Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

To distinguish the difference between a Thanksgiving and a Christmas cactus, look at the shape of the flattened stem segments called phylloclades. On the Thanksgiving cactus, these segments each have saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margins. The stem margins on the Christmas cactus are more rounded and less pronounced.

Since flowering plants sell significantly better than nonflowering, merchants tend to fill their shelves with Thanksgiving cactus. And since the word Christmas sells better than Thanksgiving, it was an easy little fib to write on the sign.

Tips to Keep Your Cacti Blooming

Light & Temperature:

Full sunlight is needed during fall and winter, but bright sun during the summer months can make it look pale and yellow. Ideal spring and summer growth (April through September) occurs at temperatures between 70°F to 80°F. During the fall, the cacti depend upon shorter day lengths (8 to 10 hours) and cooler temperatures to set their flower buds. Do not allow temperatures to rise above 90°F, once the flower buds are set. Temperature changes can cause flower buds to drop. Do not leave these cacti outside if temperatures will drop below 50°F.
The secret of good flower bud production during the fall involves temperature regulation and photo period (length of day and night) control.

Watering & Fertilizer:

The cacti are tolerant of dry, slightly under-watered conditions during the spring and summer. Following bud set in the fall, the growing medium should be kept evenly moist to prevent flower bud drop. Yet, never let the plant sit in water.
Fertilize plants monthly when new growth starts in late winter or early spring, and throughout the summer using an even (20-20-20) soluble fertilizer, with trace elements. These cacti have a higher requirement for magnesium. To satisfy this need, treat monthly during the growing season with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) mixed with 1 teaspoon per gallon of water, but do not apply the same week as the regular fertilizer. Stop fertilization during the late summer for better flower bud production in the fall.

Needs for Flowering:

  • A bright location.
  • Fourteen hours or more of continuous darkness each 24 hour period is required
    before flower buds will occur. Long nights should be started about the middle of September and continued for at least 6 continuous weeks for complete bud set. Just like the poinsettia.
  • Fall growing temperatures should be between 60°F and 68°F, but as close to 68°F as possible for maximum flower production. Plants grown with night temperatures between 50°F and 59°F will set flower buds regardless of day length, but growth will be slower.
  • Pinching at the end of September to remove any terminal phylloclades that are less than a half inch long, to make all stems approximately the same length. These short, immature stem segments will not make flower buds.

Issues in Flowering:

Frequently, both cacti drop unopened flower buds, because of one of the following:

  • Sudden change in temperature.
  • Allowing the growing medium to dry out.
  • Being placed in a drafty area.
  • Lack of flowering is often due to light interrupting the long night period (14 hours) that is required for flowering initiation to occur. Street lights, car lights or indoor lighting can disrupt the required dark period.

Propagation:

Holiday cacti are easy to propagate by cuttings, which should be taken in May or June.

  • Pinch off single sections from stems with at least 3 to 5 stem segments.
  • Allow the cut ends of the sections to callus by allowing them to layout on newspaper for about 48 hours.
  • Be sure to isinfect containers and use a well-drained potting soil for rooting.
  • Place 3 – 4 cuttings at approximately one inch deep into the potting soil of a 4-inch container, or more for larger pots.
  • Water the soil well and cover container with a clear plastic bag secured with a rubber band. The plastic bag will act as a miniature greenhouse to keep the humidity high to enhance rooting.
  • Place the container in bright, indirect light until roots have formed in about three to seven weeks.
  • At this time the plastic bag can be removed, and a low fertilizer solution (10-10-10) can be used.

Growing Media:

These cacti flower best when kept somewhat pot bound, meaning the pot is jam-packed with roots. The potting medium must be well-drained with good aeration, as these cacti do not grow well in heavy, wet potting mixes. A good mix may contain 60-80% potting soil with 40-20% perlite.

Disease & Pests:

  • Root rot, which can be prevented by avoiding excessive watering or the plant sitting in water.
  • Insects and related pests can include: mealybugs, soft brown scale, red spider mites, aphids and fungus gnats.

In the end, who cares which of these beauties you have!

I think these are some of the easiest plants to care for! I have never done anything more than keep mine in a southern window year round, water and fertilize during the summer, kept it out of drafts, humid and it blooms like crazy for about 60 days around the holidays.

Wellness Garden Design

5 Steps to a Blingy Winter Container

poles in pots
After the rocks & foam are in, add the poles
first ring of evergreen
The first row of Scot’s pine

Happy winter, everyone! I’m excited to be making my evergreen winter pots again!! Winter season pots have to handle a lot of adverse conditions and actually have to last a long time, up to five months. This year, I decided a ‘BLINGY’ winter container was the direction I’m going.

Your 5 Steps to a Blingy Winter Container:

  1. Prepare your container
  2. Start with great ‘Spiller’ hanging out of the container
  3. Add the ‘Thriller’ components (Sticks / larger material)
  4. Then the ‘Filler’ ingredients (All the fun stuff)
  5. Bling time

I make my winter pots many different ways… Sometimes on sight, other times I pre-make it using a (cheap plastic plant) liner and drop it in the outside pot, which hides the liner. Today, in this DYI, I’m using a cute, steel bucket as a completed design for a front door display.

First, I filled the bottom with a few rocks and cut the foam to fit in the bucket. The foam keeps greens watered (when above freezing) and holds greens frozen in place when cold. The heavy base is so the design won’t fall over in the wind and snow. You’ll need to be aware of the elemental situations of where this display will call home. A tall, thick arrangement may not be a good idea in a windy area. Think low and rounded, for that situation.

prune every piece
Don’t forget to prune!

Second, place your sticks (birch poles here) or the largest diameter ingredients first. You’ll know right away if your foam is going to hold, nothing like making your whole design, THEN placing your sticks, only to have the foam bust!! Yes, I have learned the hard way! If all looks good, proceed.

boxwood and magnolia leaves
Adding filler: boxwood and magnolia leaves

After that, think about where your container will be displayed. With this in mind, will they be on the sides of your door? On top of a pier? On top of a mailbox? Or on just one side of the door, like this one. Specifically, this pot will be in a corner, so I set my sticks a bit to the back of my pot, so more bling can be added to the front and sides. If you’re pot will be able to be viewed from all angles, I’d center them. If you’re having one on either side of your door, I would mirror-image the bling on the sides of the pot.

I like to get a ring around the bottom next, as you can be sure that there is a sufficient amount of greens around the rim. Again, think of where your pot will be displayed. This one will be on the ground, so it will be viewed only by looking down on it, which allows me to not have to be so perfect. Some folks have piers or taller areas where their pots are going, these pots will need to have a nice lower row, as this is what you will see when viewing up at it.

TIP! Something that I feel makes or breaks the longevity of your display, is fresh pruning e v e r y  single fresh ingredient you put into your display. Consequently, if Holly berries aren’t freshly pruned right before inserting into the foam, they will fall off before the holidays.

Adding more filler
More filler: eucalyptus

I’m using Scot’s Pine for my bottom ring or what would be called ‘Spiller’, in the industry. I love this material for spiller! Not only does it have a natural ‘kink’ in its end branches, it already has pine cones attached! Don’t worry if it sticks up a bit, as you add other stuff to the center, it will flatten out. Good subs would be spruce, white pine, red pine or arborvitae.

added hydrangea
Filling in holes with the dried hydrangea blooms

The balance of the components are considered ‘fillers’ in the display. I started with the variegated boxwood. I love the variety of colors it brings to the mix. I’m not a huge fan of a straight green pot, although I can appreciate the simplicity. Don’t fill it to the brim, there needs to be room for other ingredients and you can always add more boxwood later. It’s always easier to add than to take away. Just be sure on your placements of larger items in the foam, the foam can’t handle too many pokes before it fails and you’ll need to start over.

Winter greens container
Almost done, not enough bling yet

Next, I added some magnolia leaves. It will take up a lot of space, which is always good as you will save on materials. After that comes the eucalyptus and dried hydrangea. I usually harvest the hydrangea (for free!) from my own shrubs. If your display will be out in the elements, I would give the hydrangea a quick spray of clear enamel. This will stick them together and help stop the wind and snow from taking their toll. I also used grape vine balls sprayed lightly with white paint, for some natural-looking balls to bring together the round, blingy ornaments that are the next step.

And now for the fun part… the BLING!

I removed the ornament hangers from the large balls and stuck a stick in the hole. You may need to use hot glue to steady it on the stick. The small ones came in a one-piece clump, which I cut apart. I then added the little silver glitter sticks. Voilà!

Ultimate blingy winter container
The ultimate blingy winter container!

I chose to go with a silver / white theme here, as it can stay out past Christmas without looking too tacky. An option would be to remove the bling (or berries / anything ‘holiday’). Just be sure to account for that ahead of time, so there aren’t any holes in the display after the removal.

Lastly, be sure to water the arrangement once a week, until it freezes for the season.

If I had to total my materials here, I’d guess-ta-mate it would be about $50.00 without the pot. Granted, I’m buying material in bulk, so it may be more like $75.00 if you’re only making one. However, many times, materials can be obtained from your own landscaping, just look around. I was also able to pick-up all that bling at the dollar store! SCORE!!

In the end, I hope you have fun creating your blingy winter container!!

Ingredients:

  • Steel bucket / container
  • Rocks / something for weight
  • Floral foam
  • River Birch poles or other ornamental sticks (dogwood, curly willow, etc)
  • Scott’s Pine
  • Variegated Boxwood
  • Magnolia leaves
  • Eucalyptus
  • Dried Hydrangea
  • Grape vine balls
  • Silver glitter sticks
  • Various ornamental bling

© Wellnessgarden.design

How to Buy And Burn Firewood Like a Pro

After reading these tips, you will not only be able to buy the best firewood for your buck, you’ll be able to burn that firewood without smoking out your house or neighbors!

There are not many things that I like about cold weather, however snuggling-up to a roaring fire with my honey tops the list! Bring on the marshmallows, hot chocolate and some chestnuts to roast, fires bring out the kid in all of us.

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, you’re all set. Otherwise, outdoor areas can be easily converted to a fire pit. A circle of small boulders, bricks or just an area cleared of burnable material will work just fine.

Types of Firewood

As an arborist, folks often ask me, “What’s the best type of firewood to buy?” There’s no one answer. Everyone has a favorite firewood, just as everyone has a different way of lighting and running a fire.

Pound for pound, all varieties of wood have approximately the same heat content, which is about 6400 BTU. The heat created by burning firewood is essentially the energy of the sun, the ultimate source of all energy on planet Earth. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees are able to store solar energy as chemical energy. Burning wood is just the quick reversal of this process, liberating the suns heat when we need to keep warm.

Although the heat content may be the same, woods do burn differently because of differences in density. Firewood is classified into two categories. Soft woods include pine, juniper, spruce, poplar and cedar. These burn easily and quickly, providing a hot fire, although it won’t last long. Hardwoods are denser and burn quite slowly, producing less immediate heat but a fire that lasts longer. Hardwoods include maple, oak, ash, birch and hickory.

List of wood types
Wood types and their energy output
List of wood types
Wood types and their energy output

Another consideration of energy release is that the size of the firewood pieces affects the rate of combustion. Larger pieces ignite and release their energy slower than small pieces. Smaller pieces are better for short, hot fires (cooking) while larger pieces are a better choice for extended burning (warmth).

Where and How to Buy Firewood

Tree trimming companies are your best locations to buy firewood. Pretty easy to figure out why… They get paid to prune or remove trees and then get to paid again selling it as firewood. Double payday! Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture (here in Illinois at least) do pay visits to these locations looking for emerald ash borer and other pests that can be transferred via firewood. Many times mulching the wood destroys the insect and it can be sold as such.

If possible, try to visit the location where you will be buying your firewood. Most often, the wood will already be stacked in the quantities sold. Bundles can be any amount, mainly bought by campers needing only enough wood for a camping weekend. Otherwise, the only legal unit of measurement to buy firewood in is the CORD, defined as, “a loosely stacked pile of split firewood measuring 4 ft. wide x 4 ft. high x 8 ft. long.” equal to about 128 cubic feet.

There is no legal standard for the “Face Cord“, but it should be about 45 cubic feet = 1/3 cord. Multiply your Face Cord price X3 to determine you’re getting a good price.

Some quick notes on types of campfires:

Types of campfires
Different types of campfire layouts

TEE-PEE FIRE:
This is probably the most basic of fire designs. It is often used as a starter upon which bigger, longer-lasting fires are founded. This fire uses mostly kindling, but larger tee-pees can be created by adding larger logs vertically to the fire.

PYRAMID/PLATFORM FIRE:
This fire consists of a foundation framework of large logs laid side by side to form a solid base. These can be used to cook on very easily. It can provide quick warmth and be the start of any number of larger blazes.

STAR or INDIAN FIRE:
A star fire, or Indian fire, is the fire design often depicted as the campfire of the old West. Imagine five or six logs laid out like the spokes of a wheel (star shaped). A fire is started at the “hub” and each log is pushed towards the center as the ends are consumed. It’s another fire that can be kept burning all night long with little maintenance and where firewood is at a premium.

LEAN-TO FIRE:
This is a great fire during windy days. Be sure to check wind direction before set-up.

Storing Firewood

tree woodpile
Fun ways to stack firewood


When you get your wood delivered, stack it in neat loose piles off the ground in a sunlit location away from buildings. Plastic sheeting or closer stacking of top pieces will protect firewood from rain and snow. Firewood put in a shady corner near buildings or surrounded by shrubs deteriorates faster than wood stored in an open, sunlit location, reducing the fuel value.

Don’t treat firewood with pesticides. Storing firewood away from the house and bringing in only a day or two’s worth at a time should prevent dormant or pupating insects from warming up and emerging to become pests inside your home.

© Wellness Garden Design

FAQ’s

What are different types of firewood?

Although the heat content may be the same, woods do burn differently because of differences in density. Firewood is classified into two categories. Soft woods include pine, juniper, spruce, poplar and cedar. These burn easily and quickly, providing a hot fire, although it won’t last long. Hardwoods are denser and burn quite slowly, producing less immediate heat but a fire that lasts longer. Hardwoods include maple, oak, ash, birch and hickory. Firewood pile

What is a cord of firewood?

If possible, try to visit the location where you will be buying your firewood. Most often, the wood will already be stacked in the quantities sold. Bundles can be any amount, mainly bought by campers needing only enough wood for a camping weekend. Otherwise, the only legal unit of measurement to buy firewood in is the CORD, defined as, “a loosely stacked pile of split firewood measuring 4 ft. wide x 4 ft. high x 8 ft. long.” equal to about 128 cubic feet.
There is no legal standard for the “Face Cord“, but it should be about 45 cubic feet = 1/3 cord. Multiply your Face Cord price X3 to determine you’re getting a good price. cord of wood

How do I build a fire?

TEE-PEE FIRE:
This is probably the most basic of fire designs. It is often used as a starter upon which bigger, longer-lasting fires are founded. This fire uses mostly kindling, but larger tee-pees can be created by adding larger logs vertically to the fire.
PYRAMID/PLATFORM FIRE:
This fire consists of a foundation framework of large logs laid side by side to form a solid base. These can be used to cook on very easily. It can provide quick warmth and be the start of any number of larger blazes.
STAR or INDIAN FIRE:
A star fire, or Indian fire, is the fire design often depicted as the campfire of the old West. Imagine five or six logs laid out like the spokes of a wheel (star shaped). A fire is started at the “hub” and each log is pushed towards the center as the ends are consumed. It’s another fire that can be kept burning all night long with little maintenance and where firewood is at a premium.
LEAN-TO FIRE:
This is a great fire during windy days. Be sure to check wind direction before set-up. Types of campfires

Where’s the best place to buy firewood?

Tree trimming companies are your best locations to buy firewood. Pretty easy to figure out why… They get paid to prune or remove trees and then get to paid again selling it as firewood. Double payday! Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture (here in Illinois at least) do pay visits to these locations looking for emerald ash borer and other pests that can be transferred via firewood. Many times mulching the wood destroys the insect and it can be sold as such. tree company

Plant These Trees and Shrubs For More Butterflies

Who doesn’t want more butterflies in their yard?!? However, so many folks worry about feeding adult butterflies, that they forget that caterpillars need to eat too! With this in mind, here is a list of larval host trees and shrubs, along with the butterfly species that they attract. Planting these species in your yard will surely bring more butterfly parents to your yard.

One last thing; don’t worry, none of these species will eat your whole tree or shrub.

Red Spotted Purple butterfly
Red Spotted Purple Caterpillar

Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry

  • Bruce Spanworm
  • Blindy Sphinx (small)
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Amorpha canescens
  • Black-spotted Prominent
  • Dog Face
  • Asimina triloba
  • Zebra Swallowtail

Betula spp. – Birch

  • Compton Tortoiseshell
  • Dreump Duskywing
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Tiger Swallowtail
  • White-marked Tussock Moth

Carya spp. – Hickory

  • Hickory Hairstreak
  • Hickory Horn D.
  • Luna Moth
  • Skipper spp.
swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail Caterpillar

Catalpa

  • Catalpa Sphinx
  • Ceanothus americanus
  • Filamont Beaver
  • Spring/Summer Azure

Celtis spp. – Hackberry

  • American Snout
  • Io Moth
  • Question Mark
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Spiny Oak Slug
  • Tawny Emperor
  • Comptonia
  • Gray Hairstreak

Cornus spp. – Dogwood

  • Monkey Slug
  • Dogwood Thyativid
  • Polyphemus Moth
  • Spring/Summer Azure
  • Unicorn Caterpillar

Corylus spp. – Filbert

  • Polyphemus Moth
  • Saddled Prominent
American Dagger Moth
American Dagger Moth

Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn

  • Interruped Dagger Moth
  • Small Eyed Sphinx
  • Smeared Dagger Moth
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Fraxinus spp.
  • American Dagger Moth
  • Black Auches
  • Giant Leopard Moth
  • Harvis Three-Spot
  • Hickory Horned Devil
  • Linden Looper
  • Spiny Oak Slug
  • Tiger Swallowtail
  • Lindera benzoin
  • Giant Leopard Moth
  • Promethea Moth
  • Spicebush Swallowtail

Populus spp. – Poplar

  • Compton Tortoiseshell
  • Red-spotted Purple
  • Twin Spotted Sphinx
  • Satin Moth
  • Sigmoid Prominent
  • Viceroy
  • Virgin Moth

Prunus spp. – Cherry

  • Cherry Dagger Moth
  • Coral Hairstreak
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Viceroy
  • Wild Cherry Sphinx

Prunus serotina – Black Cherry

  • Tiger Swallowtail
  • Red-spotted Purple
Striped Hairstreak butterfly
Striped Hairstreak Caterpillar

Ptelea trifoliata – Common hoptree

  • Giant Swallowtail
  • Quercus spp.
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Edward’s Hairstreak
  • Banded Hairstreak

Rhus spp. – Sumac

  • Spring/Summer Azure

Ribes spp. – Currant

  • Gray Comma
  • Rubus spp.
  • Sphinx Hairstreak

Salix spp. – Willow

  • Acadian Hairstreak
  • Compton Tortoiseshell
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Northern Finned Prominent
  • Red-spotted Purple
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Viceroy
  • Sassafras albidum
  • Cecropia Moth
  • Imperial Moth
  • Io Moth
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Smilax
  • Spotted Phosphila
  • Turbulent

Spiraea spp. – Spirea

  • Woolly Bear
Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Tilia spp. – Basswood

  • Question Mark

Viburnum spp.

  • Hummingbird Cloverwing
  • Vitis spp.
  • Grapeleaf Skeletoniter
  • Xanthoxylum spp.
  • Giant Swallowtail
  • Skipper spp.

© Wellness Garden Design

What trees and shrubs attract butterflies?

Who doesn’t want more butterflies in their yard?!? However, so many folks worry about feeding adult butterflies, that they forget that caterpillars need to eat too! Planting species that feed caterpillars in your yard will surely bring more butterfly parents to your yard. Monarch butterfly

How to attract butterflies to my yard?

By planting trees that the butterfly larvae feed on, butterflies will come to lay their eggs on those trees. Planting these species in your yard will surely bring more butterfly parents to your yard. butterfly

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Perennials For Autumn Color

When folks think of autumn color, trees are surely their first thought. However, not many folks realize that there are some perennials that put on a pretty good show at the end of the season also. So, if you’re the kind of gardener that wants the most bang-for-their-buck out of their herbaceous plants, here’s a list for you!

Click here for Autumn Color GRASSES!

Yellow Autumn Color

amsonia
Amsonia

Yellow is probably the most common color for fall foliage on perennials. In fact, the leaves of many perennials will turn yellow before they go dormant or disappear for the winter however, here are some tried and true yellows for fall.

Amsonia tabernamontana – Blue Star

Amsonia ciliata – Downy Blue Star

Amsonia hubrechtii – Arkansas Blue Star

Sensitive Fern – Onoclea sensibilis

hosta
Hosta

Royal Fern – Osmunda regalis

Autumn Joy Stonecrop – Sedum

Solmon’s Seal – Polygonatum

Balloon Flower – Platycodon

Hostas – I feel the variegated ones put on the best shows

Bergenia
Bergenia

Monkshood – Aconitum

Variegated Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum

Red Autumn Color

Red fall color tends to be the most brilliant color in the garden, it also tends to be the most variable, and sadly not as reliable.

Leadwort – Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Beardtongue – Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’

Japanese Painted Fern – Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’

Prairie Smoke – Geum triflorum

Geranium
Geranium

Peonies – Paeonia

Pigsqueak – Bergenia

Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis

Barrenwort – Epimedium

Gooseneck loosestrife – Lysimachia clethroides

Virginia creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Milkweed
Milkweed

Columbine – Aquilegia

Bloodred Geranium – Geranium sanguineum  – Above all, a sure bet for red foliage.

Orange Autumn Color

Swamp Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata

Blazing star – Liatris

Perennials That Mimic Autumn Foliage Colors All Season:

Lastly, there are many colored foliage plants being created in many different species. However, here’s some of the more well known ones.

Heuchera Heucherella Mix
Heuchera Heucherella Mix

Arisaema triphyllum -Jack-in-the-pulpit – Has a bright red seedhead.

Actaea – (aka Cimicifuga) – Some have black foliage.

Heuchera – Range from yellow to orange to red to purple (Coral Bells)

Heucherella – Encompasses many colors from red to orange to yellow to purple (Foamy Bells)

Tiarella – Leaves range in color from purple to red to yellow (Foamflower)

Thalictrum – Some have black stems with yellow leaves.

Ligularia – Many types have dark stems and foliage.

© Wellness Garden Design

Autumn Annual Containers

My favorite season is on its way, AUTUMN!!! Which also means it’s time for autumn annual containers.

The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller!

  • Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest.
  • Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of ‘fatter or fuller’ stature.
  • Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

The only small difference you need to remember is that autumn plants do not grow like summer plants do. Basically, WYSIWYG (what you see, is what you get), you do not need to think about a plant growing into it’s place. Fill the pot to it’s greatest extent because this container will only be around for two months at best.

Here’s a great tip when using grasses: There’s no need to plant them! Wire, tie or tape them together right at the base (think ponytail), and stuff them in. Therefore, no high-end real estate being wasted on another bundle of roots.

Most autumn plants are also not that tall. I use grasses, sticks and other material to get the height the design requires.

Here’s what I commonly order for my autumn containers:
  • Miscanthus grasses – These add great height & texture
  • Pennisetum millet – Height & texture, fuzzy seedheads.
  • Heuchera – Coral bells – Great colored leaves available
  • Acorus & Carex – A nice bright yellow or white for a great spiller
  • Sedums – Great for spillers
  • Ajuga – Nice texture
  • Rudbeckia – Great reds, yellows and oranges available, also great for height
  • Kale – It comes in many varieties from cabbage/round style to tall parsley-looking
  • Osaka Cabbage – A staple in most of my designs. Fills those ‘holes’ really well
  • Swiss Chard – A wonderful filler that is very colorful also
  • Mums – Surely the official fall flower!!! Great filler
  • Calibracoa – They look like small petunias, but can handle the cooler temps. Great spiller
  • Ivy – Sometimes I reuse the ivy from the summer containers (Shhh) as it still looks great and it’s much bigger than the newly ordered pots
  • Ornamental Jerusalem Cherry – Looks like a tomato plant, but use with caution, they don’t take the cool weather well & the ‘cherries’ fall off
  • Ornamental peppers – Great way to splash in some color to the filler section (No, you can’t eat them!)
  • Crotons – One of my favs! Great for a colorful thriller
  • Pansy – These cool season flowers look great and add great color to the pot
  • Bittersweet or honeysuckle – This one is not alive, but it is a great finishing touch to the design. Unfortunately, it is a very invasive species, but is grown for the floral industry. I wish someone would get a business together where they would ‘wild collect’ this and do a ‘two-fer’ for society, invasive removal & design enjoyment
  • Eucalyptus, magnolia leaves, corn and millet – Wonderful for height and fill

© Wellness Garden Design