Spring has finally arrived! April showers brought May flowers, along with some flooding. The intermittent stream in the back corner of my property has been bubbling along every time I walk by it. The natural landscape of this area is so interesting; gorgeous exposed bluffs telling their stories through erosion, rolling hills with both meadows and woodlands, twisting and winding rivers and streams around every corner. It truly is like living in the setting of a storybook.
I’ve met so many gardeners in the past few years, both experts and aspiring. Gardeners love to talk about plants, and I’ve had quite a few questions come my way. I will do my best to answer questions that my Bluff Country friends and neighbors have.
Q: I want my Knockout Roses to continue blooming all summer like the tag said they would. They seem to only bloom for a little while. Am I doing something wrong?
A: Knockout Roses are a shrub rose that was hybridized by William Radler, just to our East in Wisconsin. They were introduced in 1999 for landscapers and homeowners to use in a lower-maintenance setting. The plants were hybridized specifically for disease resistance, instead of color or fragrance like most other roses are. The Knockout Rose family does have some varieties that are fragrant, but most are not.
Knockout Roses go through bloom cycles every 5-6 weeks. Typically by June, you will be rewarded with the first flush of blossoms. These plants have clusters of buds that bloom together, putting on a spectacular show. Though not necessary, I like to cut the spent flowers off after blooming. Even with minimal maintenance, Knockout Roses will bloom in again in 5-6 weeks. An application of fertilizer right after blooming is beneficial to the plant.
Lake Michigan keeps a large portion of Wisconsin protected in the winters, and because of this, gardeners there have slightly more success growing certain plants than we do here in Bluff Country. Roses are one of these plants. Our winters here can be very cold and windy, often without the insulating protection of snow. Proper fall cleanup and protection for Knockout Roses can help them survive our harsh conditions. Remove any spent blooms, rake away old debris that may be around the plant, and mulch with a 2-3” layer of straw. Some gardeners secure burlap around their plants.
Using a good set of pruning shears, cut back the entire plant to 12” tall in spring. The roses will grow to 3-4 feet tall by the end of the season.
Disease resistance has been bred into this plant, but care should still be taken not to stress the plant out. Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering. Adding a 2-inch layer of mulch under the plant is especially beneficial for moisture retention and prevention of weed seed germination.
Q: I hear people talking about zones. What are they, and why are they important?
A:The USDA has taken data over many years and used winter temperature readings to compile a map of the country. The map is divided into 11 hardiness zones, or the coldest temperatures that a plant can tolerate and still thrive the next spring. Most of our region is in zone 4b. This means, when shopping for plants, one should take the time to flip the plant tag over and look at the zone range listed. Often the tag will indicate “Zone 3-8”, which means that the plant will overwinter in our area because 4 falls in that range. Sometimes, the tag will simply indicate, for example, “hardy to zone 6.” This means that the plant will not survive our winters, so best to dig it up in the fall for indoor overwintering, or treat it like an annual and toss it in the compost pile at the end of the season.
The Plant Lady is a regional horticulturalist with the goal is of making Bluff Country more beautiful one garden at a time. Follow her on Facebook at PlantLadyMn for helpful tips and tricks, or via email at ThePlantLadyMN@gmail.com.
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnut halves
½ tsp. cayenne
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
3 cups spring greens
¾ cup candied walnuts (recipe follows)
1 ½ cups sliced strawberries
8 oz. crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup finely sliced green onions
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp. honey
Candied walnuts: Make the candied walnuts first so they cool (triple the recipe and use for future). Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until golden brown and toasted, 3 minutes. Add the sugar and spices and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a piece of waxed paper to cool.
Dressing: Place all the ingredients for the dressing into a blender or a mason jar with a tight fitting lid and blend well. Set aside.
Salad: Layer the salad fixings and drizzle the dressing on and toss gently.