Get Quality Landscaping For Dirt Cheap Pricing

Simply put: The words Quality Landscaping and Dirt Cheap don’t usually go together in a sentence! However, I’m here to tell you how they CAN go together and how you can get the landscaping you’ve been dreaming of, without breaking the bank.

A woman enjoying her quality landscaping
Enjoy every season’s display of color

I wrote this guide to help you learn a bit about the process that goes into the design and implementation of your landscape. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to make an educated and informed decision regarding your landscaping.

The Opposite of Quality Landscaping

Sadly, just like any industry, it’s important to realize there are some businesses that are only looking for a profit, aren’t addressing your budget or just don’t have the experience to do the job right.

Finding the right designer to work with is key to achieving your perfect landscaping. Although landscape contractors have landscape designers or architects on staff, they don’t always have all your best interests at heart. Let me explain:

Many times landscape contractors will use the same 30 plants, the same stone materials and even the same designs for multiple residences. Yikes!! Why? So they can make more money and save time. By using the same plants and stone materials, contractors are able to buy those materials in bulk. The same goes for the designs, why reinvent the design for each house, when with a little tweak, it can be used at multiple houses.

Another issue that can arise is scheduling. Countless times, larger jobs are put in front of smaller installs, or a job is started and days (or even weeks) go by before seeing the contractor again. Granted, weather-related delays are a part of landscaping, however your job shouldn’t be pushed to the back-burner because of the weather or the size of the job.

This Isn’t Quality Landscaping

Generally speaking, unless you have landscaping knowledge yourself, you won’t know if the landscape contractor is working with your best interests in mind. It’s not uncommon to see different plants installed (or different sizes than contracted), less base material under pavers than is recommended or causing future problems like flooding or damage to existing trees and plants.

Lastly, landscape contractors generally make more money on the installation (labor) of your landscape install than on the materials. With that being said, landscape contractors are unlikely to sell you a design without the catch of installing it. So if you’re looking to save money and install yourself, don’t look to a landscape contractor for your design.

So Why Choose Me For Your Landscape Design?

Why? Because I will design quality landscaping that satisfies your wants, meets your needs, falls within your budget and is installed in a timely manner.

Quality Landscaping Design

As an independent landscape designer I work for YOU and will act as a liaison between you and the installing landscape contractor by doing the following:

  • Quoting out your design to many responsible landscape contractors, assuring you’re getting the best service and schedule for the best price.
  • Tagging your woody plants at the nursery, to be sure you’re getting the best stock
  • Being present on installation day to check all aspects of the build
  • Keeping the landscape contractor on schedule
  • Supplying you detailed care information on all of your plants

Adventurous? You Can Install Your Plants Yourself and Save BIG BUCKS!

Here’s something you don’t see everyday… Being able to ‘Plant Your Own Landscape‘! Here’s how I’m able to save you a lot of money! Remember, landscape contractors make the majority of their money on the labor (install) part of the build.

There’s only two requirements needed from you; the physical capacity to be able to plant a plant (bending, kneeling, strength) and the tools (shovel, spade, rake). That’s it!

A Quick Note About Nurseries and Big Box Stores

Before you bring up the fact you can go to your local nursery or (gasp) that Big Box Store for plants, let me tell you a few things about the plants at those locations.

OK, I’m not going to dis local nurseries too much. Some points I’ll make is that the selection won’t be as wide and the pricing will be double. If they are willing to sketch a plan out for you, it will only encompass plants they have on their lot, which may be limiting. They also aren’t at your home, viewing the actual location the plants will be growing, which can cause growing issues in the future such as not enough sunlight for a plant to flower…. or too much sunlight and the plant burns up.

With regards to Big Box Store plants, just don’t do it! Other than getting your annuals or veggies from these stores, leave those other plants right where they’re at. Being that these stores are nation-wide, they get their plants from all over the nation, too. Although I’m sure they try to only stock plants that are hardy in the area, you really don’t know where the plants came from, which means there’s no guarantee they will survive for long.

Here’s How the DIY Planting Service Works:

  • After design approval, we assess where the plants will be installed. This may include sod removal, old plant removal, adding soil (I’ll give you amounts) or any other preparation work that needs to be completed before the plants arrive.
  • After all the preliminary work is done, the plant delivery is scheduled.
  • Next, I will personally choose your plants at the many wholesale nurseries I work with to be sure they are healthy and well-formed.
  • Finally, I will deliver your plants, place them in their locations and give you the knowledge you need to plant them correctly.
  • Lastly, I’ll calculate the amount of mulch needed and have it delivered.
  • Can it get any easier than that?!?

Landscape Design Costs

It’s important to realize that every landscape design has its own set of challenges. For this reason, it would be a disservice of me to quote rates. However, you will have a clear understanding of the processes and estimated costs necessary to bring your landscape to fruition before any money is exchanged.

Things I Need For Our Meeting:

  • Plat of survey
  • Wish list of desired features (Pinterest or Houzz are great assets, just tag me into your page)
  • Favorite colors or plants – photos work if you don’t know the name.
  • List of any special needs, if any (i.e. no stairs, limited sight, children, housebound family member, etc.)
  • Budget – I can easily phase out the project over a few years

Contact me today to get your quality landscaping done right for dirt cheap prices!!

© Wellness Garden Design

Plant Trees Like a Licensed Arborist

If you’re not going to plant a tree correctly, why even plant it at all?

If you’ve invested in adding a tree to your yard, you’ll need to know how to plant it properly. Remember, your tree is an investment (at the least) and a part of the family, you should only do what’s best for it. Although the general concept of planting a tree; dig hole, place tree, bury tree, is pretty simple… However, it can go wrong fairly quickly during planting, yet take years for the mistake to become noticeable, thus causing wasted time and money.

Noooooooo! I won’t let that happen to you!

Let me teach you how to plant your tree correctly, so you can enjoy your newly planted tree for your lifetime and your grandchildren’s lifetimes!

We’ll start with a quick pictorial summary, then delve into the nitty-gritty details afterward!

These are small, PeeGee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata Grandiflora) on a standards. These were grown in containers, but are in B&B (Balled & Burlapped) format since the client did not like them, I was the lucky recipient of these two free trees! As they were small and the rootball was solid, I chose to remove the burlap first (not recommended for amateurs!!), then felt the top to find the roots, which were right at the top. Next, I dug my hole 3 times larger than the rootball.

Move the tree into the hole, by holding the rootball, NOT by picking up the tree by the trunk! After that, I back-filled it about halfway with native soil and watered. After that water soaked in, I filled the remainder of the hole and watered again. Notice how I did not put any soil on the rootball? Be sure to water your new trees regularly. One long soak is better than three fleeting waters. Lastly, I love these type of Gator bags more than the Teepee types as they somewhat settle the soil with their weight and they will fit on bushy shrubs also.

This tree is at a perfect grade. It is about 1″ – 2″ higher than the soil around it. Next year, I will dig the grass out in between them and add some groundcover. For now, the grass is an insulator.

How to Plant a Tree Like a Licensed Arborist! 

Determine the depth of the top roots in the root ball

  • Start by systematically probe the root ball with a slim rod or screwdriver. At least two structural roots should be found in the top 1” to 3” inches of soil, 3” to 4” inches out from the trunk. On species prone to trunk circling-roots⊗, the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball. Furthermore, if any circling roosts are found, prune them out.
  • Excess soil needs to be removed from the top in the backfill step of the planting process.

Dig a saucer-shaped planting hole three-times the root ball diameter

remove excess soil
backfill your hole
  • To maximize soil oxygen levels, plant the tree 1” to 2” inches above grade
  • The root ball MUST sit on undug soil, which stabilizes the tree and prevents sinking and tilting. Measure after each shovel-full if you have to!
  • A saucer-shaped planting hole allows the root system to grow rapidly to 400% of the root ball volume before being slowed by the lower oxygen levels in the site soil. This is enough to minimize post-planting stress in normal planting situations.
  • The wide, saucer-shaped planting hole gives the tree more tolerance to over-watering and waterlogged soils. A wide planting hole also allows for root ball wrappings to be removed after the tree is situated in the planting hole.
  • A labor-saving technique is to dig the planting hole about two times the root ball diameter with somewhat vertical sides, then widen the hole into the desired saucer shape with the shovel during the backfill process.

Set the tree into place and remove container/wrappings

tree crook
  • In the event that the tree has a “dogleg or crook” (a slight curve in the trunk just above the graft) the inside curve must face north to avoid winter bark injury. This is a good practice to follow, however if you must place it differently because of aesthetics, you may need to wrap the trunk the first couple of winters to prevent sun scald on the trunk.
  • Next, vertically align the tree, with the top centered above the root ball. Due to curves along the trunk, the trunk may not necessarily look straight.

In this next step, techniques vary for Container-Grown Trees and Balled And Burlapped (B&B) Trees.

Container-Grown Nursery Stock:

Container-grown nursery stock describes a variety of production methods where the trees or shrubs are grown in the containers (limiting root spread to the size of container). In some systems, like pot-in-pot and grow-bags, the container is in the ground. An advantage of container stock is that it can be planted in any season.

  • First, lay the tree on its side in or near the planting hole.
  • Next, wiggle off or cut off the container.
  • Shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw or pruners. This is to deal with circling roots.
  • Tilt the tree into place with the inside curve of any graft crook facing north.
  • Check the depth of the root ball in planting hole. If needed, remove the tree and correct the hole depth.
  • Align vertically. A tree will NOT straighten out if planted crooked.
  • For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball
firm rootball
  • The ideal container-grown tree has a nice network of roots holding the root ball together. After removing the container, guide the tree into place.
    If some of the soil falls off (often on the bottom), it may be necessary to adjust the depth of the planting hole. Backfill and pack the bottom of the planting hole to the correct depth.
  • Fabric grow bags must be removed from the sides. They are generally cut away after setting the tree into place.
  • Paper/pulp containers should be removed. Most are slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues. Pulp containers often need to be cut off, as they may not slide off readily.
  • In handling large trees (3-inch caliper and greater) it may be necessary to set the tree into place before removing the container.

Field-Grown, B&B Nursery Stock:

Field-grown, balled and burlapped (B&B) trees and shrubs are dug from the growing field with the root ball soil intact. In this harvest process, only 5-20% of the feeder roots are retained in the root ball. B&B nursery stock is best transplanted in the cooler spring or fall season.

To prevent the root ball from breaking, the roots are balled and wrapped with burlap (or other fabrics) and twine (hence the name B&B). In nurseries today, there are many variations to the B&B techniques. Some are also wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap, placed into a wire basket, or placed into a pot.

An advantage of the wider planting hole is that it gives room for the planter to remove root ball wrappings AFTER the tree is situated in the hole.
Based on research by the ISA, standard procedures are to remove root ball wrapping materials (burlap, fabric, grow bags, twine, ties, wire basket, etc.) from the upper 12 inches or 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater, AFTER the tree is set into place. Materials under the root ball are not a concern since roots grow outward, not downward. It is still a good idea to remove as much as possible.

  • Remove extra root ball wrapping added for convenience in marketing (like shrink-wrap and a container). However, do NOT remove the burlap (or fabric), wire basket and twine that hold the root ball together until the tree is set into place.
  • Set tree into place with the inside curve of any graft crook facing north.
  • Check the depth of the root ball in planting hole. If needed, removed the tree and correct the hole depth.
  • Align vertically.
  • For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball.
  • Removed all the wrapping (burlap, fabric, twine, wire basket, etc.) on the upper 12 inches or upper 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater.
  • If circling roots are found, shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw or pruners.
  • The consensus from research is clear that leaving burlap, twine, and wire baskets on the sides of the root ball are not acceptable planting techniques.
    • Burlap may be slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues.
    • Burlap that comes to the surface wicks moisture from the root ball, leading to dry soils.
    • Jute twine left around the trunk will be slow to decompose, often girdling the tree.
    • Nylon twine never decomposes in the soil, often girdling the trees several years after planting.
    • Wire baskets take 30-plus years to decompose and may interfere with long-term root growth.
  • With tapered wire baskets, some planters find it easier to cut off the bottom of the basket before setting the tree into the hole. The basket can still be used to help move the tree and is then easy to remove by simply cutting the rings on the side.


When backfilling, be careful not to over-pack the soil which reduces large pore space and thus soil oxygen levels. A good method is to simply return soil and allow water to settle it when irrigated.

Soil “peds” (dirt clods) up to the size of a small fist are acceptable in tree planting. In clayey soils, it is undesirable to pulverize the soil, as this destroys large pore space.
Changes in soil texture (actually changes in pore space) between the root ball soil and the backfill soil create a soil texture interface that impedes water and air movement across the interface. To deal with the interface, the top of the root ball must come to the surface (that is, no backfill soil covers the top of the root ball). Backfill soil should cover the root ball knees, gradually tapering down.

Optional Staking

When properly planted, set on undug soil, most trees in the landscape do not require staking or underground stabilization. Staking may be desirable to protect the trees from human activities. If the tree is in a windy location, staking may be necessary.

Install staking before watering so the planting crew does not pack down the wet soil. After the first year, remove the stakes for two reasons; one to be sure growth is not hindered by any cables and secondly, the tree will need to learn how to deal with the wind (by growing stronger). Consequently, if its left staked, it may blow down after it’s larger.

Water to Settle Soil

Water after staking so to not not compact the wet soil installing the stakes. Watering is a tool to settle the soil without overly packing it. Be sure the new tree gets enough water to settle the soil, then at least 1” of water a week, more if it is hot and dry.

Final Grade

With the wide planting hole, the backfill soil may settle in watering. Be sure to check the grade after watering.

well planted tree


Do not place mulch directly over the root ball on newly planted trees. As a rule of thumb, 3” to 4” inches of wood/bark chips gives better weed control and prevents soil compaction from foot traffic when placed over the backfill area and beyond. Additional amounts of mulch may reduce soil oxygen.

At the same time, do not place wood/bark chips up against the trunk. Do not make mulch volcanoes!! On wet soils, mulch may help hold excessive moisture and be undesirable. Wood/bark chips are not suitable in open windy areas.

© Wellness Garden Design

These species are prone to girdling roots.
Austrian pine, Pinus nigra
Black gum tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica
Bradford pear, Pyrus calleryana
Bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa
Cherry, Prunus spp.
Crabapple, Malus spp.
Dogwood, Cornus spp.
Elm, Ulmus spp
Fruitless mulberry. Morus alba
Gingko. Gingko biloba
Green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis
Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis
Holly, Ilex spp.
Honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos
Juniper, Juniperus spp.
Littleleaf linden, Tilia cordata
Norway maple, Acer platanoides
Norway spruce, Picea abies
Pin oak, Quercus palustris
Poplar/Cottonwood, Populus spp.
Red maple, Acer rubrum
Red oak, Quercus rubra
Sawtooth oak, Quercus acutissima
Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris
Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii
Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila
Silver maple, Acer saccharinum
Spruce, Picea spp.
Sugar maple, Acer saccharum
Sugarberry, Celtis laevigata
Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
White oak, Quercus alba
White pine, Pinus strobes
Zelkova, Zelkova sp.

How to Buy & 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

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.

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.

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.

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

Reduce Your Energy Costs With Landscaping

Landscaping can significantly reduce energy costs of heating and cooling the home. Some well-placed shade trees, evergreens and shrubs not only look great, but also keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Not much solar energy enters our homes through the walls and roof because of the insulation. Sun shining through the windows accounts for about half of the unwanted heat in a house during the summer. Twice as much solar energy enters through the east and west windows as the south windows, particularly if there is a roof overhang on the south side of the house.

The sun and wind both affect the temperature of residences in winter. A substantial amount of warmth can be gained from the sun shining through a southern facing window in the winter when the sun is low in the sky. East and west windows can also provide solar energy gain in the winter. The solar energy from the windows may provide 4-18% of the total energy needed to heat the home. Although, escaping warm air, along with cold wind penetrating a home, increase the heating costs and account for 24-39% of the heating requirements.

How to Utilize Landscape to Save Energy


  • Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.
  • Commonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail. This can provide shelter for the home from cold winds, and therefore reduce heating energy costs.
A Well-Made Wind Break

A well planned windbreak, forces a large area of relatively calm air to form downwind from the windbreak.

To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house. The most proficient windbreaks are made of at least one row of dense evergreen trees whose branches extend to ground level. Windbreaks are planted in rows perpendicular to the wind direction.

Winter landscape
Winter Landscape

For us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side.

Smaller yards do not have space for large evergreen trees, but the canopy of tall deciduous trees can provide a great deal of protection. To be effective, mature trees should cover at least half the canopy space. This will provide some defense from winter winds, and a significant amount of shading from hot summer sun.

Seasonal Solar Energy:

Enlarge the deciduous tree canopy in specific areas to either shade or not obstruct the solar energy.

Deciduous shade trees should be planted due west and east of windows. Shade trees in these locations will shade the late morning and afternoon sun, which produces the most heat to homes in summer. Be sure to research and choose the right tree for the location. The chosen tree should grow within 20 feet of windows and at its mature size, be 10 feet higher than the windows its shading.

Summer Landscape
Summer Landscape

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

In addition to shading the house, trees or shrubs should be planted to provide shade to air conditioners. Be aware of where the fans discharge on the unit, as this could cause drying of the herbaceous screen. Keeping the surfaces of the air conditioner allows it to run more efficiently.

Additional Tips:

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building.

If drifting snow is a problem in the yard, windbreaks of trees and shrubs can act as living snow fences to control the location of snowdrifts. Lower shrubs planted on the windward side of the windbreak will trap snow before it blows next to the home. Winds will funnel around the ends of a snow fence. If possible, the row of plants should extend beyond the snowdrift area. A minimum of two rows of deciduous shrubs and/or one row of evergreens are most effective for snow control.

© 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.


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

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

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!!


  • 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


Edible Plants for Midwest Wellness Gardens and Foraging

Although I had previously written this article about edible plants with only foragers in mind, I think it’s also a great reference for Wellness Garden designers.

Most Wellness Gardens are used in a passive manner, as in a place for sitting and reflecting. These types of gardens are called Restorative Gardens, and can be found at many hospitals, hospice and community parks.The other main type of garden is called an Enabling Garden, as it allows people to work with and among the plants.

When designing for an Enabling Garden, plant choices need to selected quite carefully as clients will be face to face with those plants. Many times clients may break branches, allowing sap to run or even eat them, unquestionably.

I have read the United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual cover to cover many times. There’s some really good information in there that can help anyone stay on this side of the grass longer during a bad situation. (BTW – There is an app for this ) There are two chapters dedicated to plants alone. Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food.

Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.

These are the steps to the Universal Edibility Test:

1. Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.
2 Separate the plants into its basic components—leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.
3 Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
4 Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.
5 During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction
6 During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.
7 Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
8 Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.
9 If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.
10 If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.
11 If no burning, itching, numbing stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.
12 Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.
13 If no ill effects occur, eat 1/4 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals

Tips to keep you alive and well while foraging:

Be extremely careful when collecting mushrooms. Mistakes can be fatal.

Avoid collecting plants in commercially fertilized areas or where toxic herbicides or other chemicals may have been sprayed. This means avoid collecting under power lines, right of ways, in unfamiliar weedy lawns, beside commercial crop fields, or close to roadsides. Better to error on the side of caution!

Be grateful. Before picking, plucking or digging, pause for a moment and give thanks to the plant that is giving itself to you. Collect with consciousness. Make the area look as though you were not there. Take only what you need, leaving plenty for wildlife and future years.

Once the food is collected, clean and sort it ‘in the field’. It is much easier there. No cook wants a sink full of muddy roots mingled with grass blades and half an anthill.

Before you eat a food, be sure to prepare correctly. Many plants can be mildly toxic and may require cooking or parboiling (and then discarding) the first and second ‘waters’ before ingesting.

Learn to blend wild produce into a meal in subtle ways. Often the flavors can be quite strong. I like to use garlic mustard in my tomato sauces. It gives a light garlic taste.

*There is special preparations needed eat it.

** Caution this plant either has parts that are toxic or a poisonous look-alikes

Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek

Acer spp. – Maple ~ The inner bark & seeds

Allium spp. – Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek ~ The bulb & leaves

Amaranthus spp. – Amaranth ~ the seeds, shoots & leaves

Apios americana – Groundnut ~ The tubers (roots)

Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit ~ The corm (well dried)*

Armoracea lapathifolia – Horseradish ~ The young leaves & roots


Asarum canadense – Wild Ginger ~ The rootstock

Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed

Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)

Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root

Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower

Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs


Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds

Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepard’s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods

Carya spp. – Hickory and Pecan ~ Yummy nuts

Castanea pumila – Chinquapin ~ nuts

Celtis spp. – Hackberry ~ The fruits

Cercis canadensis – Redbud flowers~ The young pods

Ox-Eye Daisy

Chenopodium album – Lamb’s Quarters ~ The young leaves and tops

Cichorium intybus – Chicory ~ young leaves & root

Cirsium spp. – Thistle ~ The young leaves, inner stem (pith) & 1st year root

Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum – ~ The young leaves

Claytonia spp. – Spring Beauty ~ corm**

Wild Carrot

Commelina spp. – Day Flower ~ The young leaves and stem

Corylus spp. – Hazelnuts ~ Yummy nuts

Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn ~ The fruits

Cyperus esculentus Chufa – Nut Grass ~ The tuber

Daucus carota – Wild Carrot ~ The root**

Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon ~ The fruits*

Erechtites hieracfolia – Fireweed ~ The young shoots and leaves

Wild Strawberry

Fragaria spp. – Wild Strawberry ~ The fruit, leaves*

Fagus grandifolia – Beech ~ nuts

Fraxinus spp. – Ash ~ The fruits

Galium aparine & verum Cleavers – Bedstraw ~ The young shoots/leaves

Gleditsia triacanthos -Honey Locust ~ The fruits

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke ~ The tuber (Makes the best soup!)

Jerusalem Artichoke

Hemerocallis fulva – Day Lily ~ The young shoots, flower, flower buds, tuber

Heracleum maximum – Cow-Parsnip ~ The young stems/ leafstalks, seeds, root**

Juglans nigra – Black Walnut ~ Yummy nuts

Lactuca spp. – Wild Lettuce ~ The young leaves

Lamium amplexicaule – Henbit ~ The new tips

Lepidium spp. – Peppergrass ~ The young leaves & seedpods

Common Mallow

Lycopus spp. – Bugleweed ~ The tubers

Malva neglecta – Common Mallow ~ The young leaves & green fruit

Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed ~ The flowers

Medeola virginiana – Indian Cucumber ~ The root & tuber

Mentha, spp. – Wild mint ~ The leaves (Did someone say Mojito?!)

Mitchella repens – Partridgeberry ~ The fruits

Morus, spp. – Mulberry ~ The fruits


Nasturtium officinale – Watercress ~ The young leaves and stems

Nelumbo lutea – American Lotus ~ The young leaves, seeds & tubers

Nuphar, spp. – Yellow Pond Lily ~ The rootstocks, seeds

Nymphaea spp.- Water Lily – The young leaves, flowerbuds, seeds & tubers

Oenothera biennis – Evening Primrose ~ 1st year taproots, young small plants

Opuntia humifusa – Prickly-Pear ~ young leaf pads,* fruit & seeds

Yellow Wood-Sorrels

Oxalis, spp. – Yellow Wood-Sorrels ~ The leaves & fruit

Pastinaca sativa – Wild Parsnip ~ The taproot

Phragmites communis Reed – Phragmites ~ The young stem, seeds & rootstock

Physalis spp. – Ground-cherry ~ The fruits

Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed ~ The young leaves**

Plantago spp. – Plantain ~ The leaves

May Apple

Podophyllum peltatum – May-apple, Mandrake ~ Only the mature fruit**

Polygonum cuspidatum – Japanese Knotweed ~ The new bamboo-like tips

Pontederia cordata – Pickerel Weed ~ The shoots & seeds

Portulaca oleracea – Purslane ~ The stems and leaves & seeds

Prunus americana – Wild Plum ~ The fruits

Prunus spp. – Wild Cherry (Choke, Black) ~ The fruits

Pteridium aquilinum – Bracken fern ~ The fiddlehead

Pteretis pensylvanica – Ostrich Fern ~ The fiddlehead


Malus spp. – Crap Apple ~ The fruits

Pyrus, spp. – Chokeberry, Chokecherry ~ fruits

Quercus spp. – Oak ~ acorns*

Rhexia virginica – Meadow Beauty ~ The tender leaves, tubers

Ribes spp. – Gooseberries, Currents ~ fruits

Robinia pseudo-acacia – Black Locust ~ The flowers (only)

Wild Rose Hip

Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ petals, fruits (hips)

Rubus spp. – Brambles ~ Fruits Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry, etc.

Rubus typhina and spp. – Staghorn Sumac ~ The fruit**

Rumex acetosella – Sheep (or Common) Sorrel ~ The tender leaves and stems

Rumex crispus -Dock, Curled and Yellow ~ The young leaves

Sagittaria spp. – Arrowhead ~ The tubers


Salix spp. – Willow leaves ~ The inner bark

Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters, ripe fruit**

Sassafras albidum – Sassafras leaves ~ The root (for tea)

Scirpus spp.- Bulrush ~ The shoot, pollen, seeds & rootstock

Smilax spp. – Catbrier, Greenbrier ~ The young shoots and leaves & rootstock

Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ The leaves and flowers

Sweet Goldenrod

Stellaria spp. – Chickweed ~ The tender leaves and stems

Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion ~ The leaves and root

Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers

Tradescantia spp. – Spiderwort ~ The shoots

Tragopogon porrifolius – Salsify, Oyster-Plant ~ The young leaves and root

Trifolium pratense – Red Clover ~ The young leaves and flowers


Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ The young leaves, flowerheads

Typha spp – Cattails ~ Young shoots and stocks (inner core), immature flowers, pollen and root

Urtica dioica – Stinging Nettle ~ The young shoots & leaves*

Vaccinium, spp. – Blueberry, Huckleberry ~ The yummy fruits

Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers

Vitis, spp. – Grapes ~ The tender leaves and fruit***


© Wellness Garden Design

° Here’s the standard warning ~ Kids, don’t try this at home! Go out in the forest and give it a try!! Please truly know you’ve identified the edible plant correctly before eating. I’m not going down for it 😉

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.

Procuring an African Violet is convenient and low cost. I always goes to the indoor plant section of the Big Box Depot store where the price for one is around $2.50.

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.

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 Violets do not like drafts either, hence keep them away from doors, vents, space heaters and fans.

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

Grasses for Autumn Color

Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’
Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’

Many folks think of trees and shrubs for fall color, however ornamental grasses also offer exceptional autumn color. Here’s a great list of grasses to add to your garden designs.

(Click here for Perennials with autumn color)

Grasses offering RED autumn colors:
  • Imperata ‘Red Baron’ – Japanese blood grass – under 2 feet – Foliage turns red in late summer – Plume-less
  • Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ – dwarf maiden grass – 3 feet high – Plumes emerge pink, then turns to white
  • Miscanthus ‘Grazella’ – maiden grass – 5-6 feet high – Foliage turns red in early fall – White plumes in August
  • Miscanthus ‘ Purpurascens’ – flame grass – 3-5 feet high – Foliage turns red in mid-summer, changing to deep burgundy in fall – Cottony plumes in August
  • Panicum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ – switch grass – 3-4 feet high – Foliage becomes red-wine colored by mid summer – Plumes appear in late summer
  • Panicum ‘Prairie Fire’ – switch grass hybrid – 4-5 feet high – Foliage turns deep red in early summer – Rosy panicles in late summer

    Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
    Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
  • Schizachyrium scoparium – little bluestem – 2-3 feet high – Foliage turns red-bronze in fall – Plumes are silvery-white in August
Grasses offering ORANGE autumn colors:
  • Sesleria autumnalis – moor grass – 12-18 inches high – Foliage turns warm rust in fall – Plumes appear summer into fall
  • Miscanthus ‘Nippon’ – maiden grass – 4 feet high – Foliage turns red-orange in fall – Reddish-bronze panicles develop in August
  • Sporobolus heterolepsis – prairie dropseed – 2-3 feet high – Foliage is fragrant and turns rust colored in fall
Grasses offering BURGUNDY autumn colors:
  • Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ – red switch grass – 3-4 feet high – Foliage emerges green with red tips, depending on the weather, may develop burgundy hue – Scarlet-red panicles emerge in mid summer
  • Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ – red switch grass – 4 feet high – Foliage develops burgundy tips in early summer – Burgundy panicles appear in mid summer

    Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’
    Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’
  • Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ – variegated maiden grass – 4 feet high – Foliage remains variegated – Burgundy plumes fade to cream color
  • Miscanthus ‘Silver Feather’ or ‘Silberfeder’ – maiden grass – 6 feet – Foliage blends into burgundy, purple, and gold – Silver plumes in late summer
Grasses offering YELLOW autumn color:
  • Molinia ‘Dauerstrahl’ or ‘Faithful Ray’ – purple moor grass – 2 feet high – Foliage turns yellow in early fall
  • Molinia caerulea ‘Strahlenquelle’ or ‘Source of Rays’ –  purple moor grass – 1 1/2 – 2 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Purplish plumes appear from July through October
  • Molinia ‘Skyracer’ – tall purple moor grass – 7-8 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Airy, copper-gold plumes appear in July and August
  •  – switch grass – 3-5 feet high – Foliage turns bright yellow in fall – Pink plumes develop into buff colored seed heads
  •  Panicum ‘Northwind’ – switch grass – 5-6 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Seed heads are small

© Wellness Garden Design