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Garden Ramblings, Issue #051
November 11, 2008


November 2008

Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene


If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend.

If you are reading the text version you will need to go online to see the videos.


In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- A Tribute to Fall
- Fall Garden Cleanup
- Tips For Growing Ferns
- Special Offers
- Tailpiece





Welcome to the November issue of Garden Ramblings. There are just two articles this month because the second one is rather longer than usual.

At first glance the list of contents above looks very much the same as last month. In fact the full title of the article by Dayelle Swensson is "Environmentally Concerned Fall Garden Clean Up" but don't let that put you off. Her suggestions can lead to less work in the garden at this time of year.

The second article is by John Marshall and his "Tips for Growing Ferns" are strictly practical. He gives detailed instructions on the planting and subsequent care of these interesting plants and also includes descriptions of several different varieties.

As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month.

The video this month is "A Tribute to Fall".

Enjoy the issue.




A Tribute to Fall



*********************************************************** Environmentally Concerned Fall Garden Clean Up
by Dayelle Swensson

Fall tells us it is time to prepare our garden for the winter. Fearing of disease and insect problems appearing the next spring, many gardeners wonder if they should just cut down and clear out the summer growth.

It really depends on what kind of garden you are growing whether or not you will need to do a lot of cleaning or just a little at the end of the blooming season. What also comes into play is how concerned you and your neighbors are about the neatness of your property. Your style of growing, whether it be annuals, tropical plants, vegetables, wildflowers, evergreens, woods or a plain lawn will set the amount of time and work necessary.

As more people learn the principles, (IPM) is gaining in popularity as an alternative approach to gardening. You can actually do less in your yard and let nature work for you. Doing a big fall clean up may not be as necessary when you consider the integrated pest management way of gardening.

It is best, if you can to leave some perennials standing. Besides it's fun to watch finches picking out the seeds on echinacea or more commonly called coneflowers. Sunflowers, liatris or butterfly flower and other flowers that go to seed will provide food for wildlife. Watching birds can give you hours of enjoyment in the winter garden. Leaving flowers and stalks through the winter will also provide homes for wintering insects that provide food for birds. An environmentally friendly garden will always have lots of bugs in it. Instead of cleaning up all seed heads, leave them giving some winter protection for birds and insects in your garden. Milkweed pods provide seeds for food and flycatchers, vireos, wrens, some warblers, sparrows, orioles and finches will use the floss on the milkweed for nesting. Think of this as not a punishment for laziness but a reward for allowing nature to take care of itself. In spring, migrating birds will come looking for those insects attracted by the left pods and visit the garden that provides food. Plus if you are a bird watcher, this gives you even more pleasure.

When you feel you must cut down perennial stalks, chop them into about six-inch lengths and pile them in the garden as mulch with fall leaves. You would be amazed at how many wintering wildlife seek cover under the stick piles. give cover for wildlife, including wintering butterflies like the Mourning cloak. This kind of mulch can be worked into your garden in the spring that will eventually make your soil much richer producing healthier plants, adding important organic material.

It is important to cut down and discard (as in remove) diseased plant material. This is a hygienic step and make sure not to toss it in your compost pile. To assure the best conditions for next year's crop, vegetable gardens will need to be cleared of old growth. Prune back plants and shrubs with seed heads that start too many unwanted new plants. Tropical plants require a lot of care in this non-tropical area. Plants that grow naturally here are a much better investment all the way around. Look for plants native to your back yard and they'll flourish in the your natural soil, temperature range and the amount of water available. Native plants will look beautiful with less time spent fussing with them. This will leave you with more time to do the other fall gardening chores like cleaning, sharpening and oiling your garden tools.

Dayelle Swensson is an avid writer for the web on a number of topics. Having gardened herself for many years, she is able to advise others about a variety of things including gardening tips, lawn and tree care, watering, hose reel and keeping your home garden looking good and healthy.



A Joyful Surprise Every Day with our Woodland Cabin Advent Calendar


Count down the days to Christmas with our woodsy cabin advent calendar containing a menagerie of woodland animals. Twenty-three magnetic doors swing open to reveal a different animal each day: blue jay, chipmunk, rabbit, field mouse, moose, fox, goose, cardinal, bald eagle, mallard duck, owl, otter, raccoon, hedgehog, squirrel, skunk, frog, two deer, two bears and two wolves. A twenty-fourth door opens to reveal a festive wreath. Cabin is beautifully detailed, including a front porch chair and firewood.


Open one of the numbered doors each day to reveal a friendly woodland animal

Fun for the whole family
Base rotates for a 360° view
This heirloom-quality advent calendar is a holiday tradition to be enjoyed for years to come

Click here to find out more icon


************************************************************* Tips For Growing Ferns
by John Marshall

Ferns evoke a sense of rich mystery in the landscape, like that of a lush woodland. Their fragile appearance belies their toughness. Rather than being difficult to grow, ferns are solution plants for many of the difficult landscape problems that gardeners face. They thrive in shady, moist areas and love acid soil. Plant them around the base of trees, in dark and moist areas around the foundation of your home, behind walls or utility buildings, at the edge of wooded areas. They may grow where ever they find a foothold between cobblestones and bricks. They are great for those transitional zones between lawn and wooded areas.

Ferns prefer acid soil; ideally, the pH should test between 5.5 and 6.5. Take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Office for analysis. Adjust the pH according to their expert recommendations.

If you are planting a container-grown fern, thoroughly water it before planting. Gently slip it from the pot, retaining as much of the soil as possible. Spread the roots out into the hole. Plant at the same depth as it grew in the nursery container. Water deeply with a fine spray. Too strong a stream of water can damage the foliage.

Many ferns are easily transplanted as bare root plants. These may be available as dormant crowns, mats, or plants in leaf. Dormant crowns are simply bare-root ferns in a dormant state with the dead fronds removed. Mats look like a tangle of roots about the size of a saucer or small plate. Planting them is not much different than planting container-grown ferns. The roots should be kept moist (not soggy) until planting, the soil should be properly prepared, and the plants watered well. A few, like the Hay-Scented fern, are easily and economically propagated by bare rhizomes, or "root cuttings." These are usually about the length and diameter of a short pencil. Plant by digging a very shallow trench and laying the rhizomes in it. Or you may simply lay them atop a prepared planting bed, and cover with a couple of inches of good grade topsoil or professional potting mix. Always water well and make sure that no rhizomes are left exposed.

Ferns seldom need fertilizing. But if they look pale or grow very little, some fertilizing can help. Fish emulsion fertilizer is a favorite with fern growers.

Dilute the fish emulsion with water at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon of emulsion per quart of water. Apply as a soil drench once in Spring and again in mid-Summer.

Gardeners in the frozen north often take steps to protect their ferns during winter, even if the plants are considered to be cold-hardy. If you choose to do so, leave old fern fronds on the plants as they turn brown in the fall. A light covering of tree leaves spread over a make-do frame of sticks or poultry netting works well. The mulch and frames should be removed right away in the Spring and added to the compost pile. Take care that young fresh fronds are not broken in the process.

Here are some of my favorite ferns for the landscape:

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum Pictum). This is a gorgeous fern with contrasting foliage colors. New fronds are metallic gray with a reddish or purplish blush. The older fronds maintain color very well, and contrast nicely with the newer fronds. Its very cold hardy, doing well from USDA climate zones 4-9. Japanese Painted Fern grows to 10" and goes dormant in winter. Plant in partial to full shade. It is deer resistant.

Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula). It is native to the U.S. The leaves are fragrant, as its name suggests. The deciduous, deep green fronds are triangle-shaped and heavily divided with lacy leaflets. It is very adaptable, doing quite well in poor soil, and it doesn't care whether the soil is wet or dry. As noted before, Hay-Scented Fern is propagated from rhizome cuttings that are about the size of a short pencil. Just prepare the soil, lay the rhizomes horizontally in shallow furrows, cover with soil, and water. Very easy. Mature height is up to 30". Plant in partial to full shade in USDA climate zones 3-8. It is deer resistant.

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). Burgundy colored fronds emerge in spring and turn green as they mature. 'Brilliance' is one of the best. This evergreen fern prefers well-drained soil in USDA climate zones 5-8. Plant in partial to full shade. Mature height is up to 24". It is deer resistant.

Southern Shield Fern (Dryopteris ludovichiana). This evergreen native perennial has a very upright growth habit. The fronds are dark green. It tolerates dry conditions, but prefers moist soil in USDA climate zones 6-10. You can plant it in full sun to partial shade. Mature height is up to 48". It is deer resistant.

Ostrich Fern(Matteuccia struthiopteris). This native fern grows to be a whopper, up to 72". From winter dormancy, dark brown fronds emerge erect in the spring, arch outward from the center and turn dark green. Foliage is lance-shaped. This is the fern that produces that elusive delicacy so loved in the northeastern states. Plant in moist soil in partial to full shade. Though it is said to perform well in USDA climate zones 2-7, it is only marginally successful in zone 7. It is deer resistant.

Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea). Cinnamon fern is widely adaptable from USDA climate zones 2-10. It is native to the U.S. Emerging from dormancy, furry brown fronds unfurl and turn light green. Rust-colored spikes emerge from the center. Cinnamon fern grows to 60" Plant in moist soil in partial to full shade. It is deer resistant.

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis). Royal fern produces bright green fronds that are mostly erect. Leaflets are broad and oblong. Rust-colored spikes emerge from the center. Royal fern often shares the same habitat as Cinnamon fern. It also requires moist soil in USDA climate zones 2-10. Plant in partial to full shade. Mature height is up to 60". It is deer resistant.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). It gets its name by the fact that the tough, evergreen fronds were very popular for floral arrangements. Many people used to scour the forests to gather the dark green foliage for themselves or for commercial purposes. Christmas fern has a clump-forming habit. It prefers moist soil in USDA climate zones 3-9. Plant in partial to full shade. If it receives more sun, adequate water is essential. It is deer resistant.

Variegated East Indian Holly Fern (Arachniodes simplicior Variegata). I love plants with variegated foliage, so this one is very satisfying. Glossy, evergreen fronds have yellowish variegation along the mid-rib. It grows slowly up to 30". Plant in partial to full shade in USDA climate zones 7-11. Consistently moist soil is essential. It is deer resistant.

Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum Rochfordianum). You'll see this bold, semi-evergreen fern all over the southeast. It is especially popular in parks and gardens in such classic cities as Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. Fronds are deep green and glossy with large, holly-like leaflets. It grows to 30". Plant in partial to full shade in USDA climate zones 6-10. It requires rich, well-drained soil. Like other ferns, it is deer resistant.

Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis). It is also known as Eastern Wood Fern, and is native, as you might expect, to the eastern U.S. This one is evergreen, growing to 20". It performs best in USDA climate zones 2-8. Plant in shade in moist, well-drained soil. Deer resistant.

Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum). This evergreen fern has glossy, dark green fronds and fuzzy stems. Quite unusual looking. Performs best in USDA climate zones 2-8. Plant in partial shade in moist, rich soil. It grows to 24". This, too, is deer resistant.

Korean Rock Fern (Polystichum tsus-simense). This lovely evergreen fern can even double as a house plant! It has a very compact habit, growing up to 18" tall. Plant in partial shade in rich, well-drained soil. Though it prefers slightly moist soil, it will tolerated periods of dry weather. It is good for xeriscaping. If planting outdoors, it performs best in USDA climate zones 6-8. Deer resistant.

Southern Shield Fern (Thelypteris kunthii). It is a native fern that does well in sun or shade, but always requires wet or consistently moist soil. Its a great choice for planting alongside ponds, streams or bog gardens. Deciduous fronds are erect and form large, spreading clumps. Performs best in USDA climate zones 7-10. Mature height is up to 28". It should come as not surprise that this one is also deer resistant.

For more on deer resistant plants, check out my blog article on that topic.

To learn more, go to and



Special Offers


With all the major sales over for the time being, I am afraid that there is little to report this month.


Apart from a few reductions in the Outlet section Gardener's Supply Company is currently just offering a 10% discount when you spend $50 or more. Click the banner and you will see that this offer ends on November 20.



Gardener's Supply Company



Dutch Gardens are running a Fall Sale with reductions of 30% on selected bulbs and perennials and you can still save $25 when you spend $50 as shown on the banner.



Dutch Gardens, Inc.





Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co are offering a climbing rose collection at 48% off and, as you see from the banner, you can still save $20 when you spend $40 or more.



Shop at for your vegetable and flower seeds!





This month Nature Hills Nursery are offering savings of up to 75% on beautiful Rose Bush varieties.









Gnomes Are Evil



Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]


That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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