Vande Hey Design Center

Monday, April 6, 2015

IAA's effects on plant growth

What causes a plant to “grow-up,” roots to grow down, or plants to grow towards a light source?  The answer is plant hormones or plant growth regulators as they are sometimes called.  In this particular case the hormone involved is the naturally occurring plant substance called indole-3-acetic acid or IAA for short. 

 IAA’s primary function in life is to stimulate cell growth especially near growing points.  In stems the more IAA present the more cell elongation occurs.   If you place a living, growing stem on its side it will naturally bend to return to growing in an upright position. Here’s how it works in our horizontal stem example.  In response to basic gravity IAA accumulates in the bottom portion of the stem.  This increased concentration causes the cells at the bottom of the stem to elongate (grow) at a faster rate then those cells at the top causing the stem to naturally curve upwards.  In roots IAA has the opposite effect.  The more IAA presents the slower the growth rate causing a natural downward growth.  Phototropism, or the growth of plants towards a light source, is also under the control of IAA.  IAA is degraded by sunlight and thus accumulates in the shady side of stems causing cells on the shady side to elongate at a faster rate then those on the sunny side curving the stem to naturally grow towards the light.  Amazing!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

It's all in the timing

Plant phenology is the study of when plants do some visible act in relationship to the calendar or clock. For example, spring snowdrops usually come into bloom in late March or early April.  During Victorian times plant phenology was taken to its highest levels, almost becoming an art form. As Victorian era gardeners planted massive carpets of annuals in intricate designs, they also began a tradition of planting floral clocks; literally a planting of flowers which could be used to tell the time (or at least approximate the time).

Going back to phenology, we’ve all noticed that certain plants open their flowers at various times through out the day.  For example:  morning glories, moon flowers, four-o-clocks, evening primrose and daylily to name just a few.  It’s this phenological characteristic that was used to create these intricate and surprisingly accurate floral clocks.

Now we may no longer plant flower clocks and our busy schedules may not allow us the luxury of keeping our own phenological records, but plant phenology can still play an important role in our industry.  Close observations of when certain events occur are becoming more and more useful in the control of many plant pests.

Let me give you just one example.  Bronze Birch Borer (a widespread and possibly fatal insect of paperbirch) is best controlled by certain chemicals when the lilacs are in bloom. Applications of these same chemicals at other times to control the borer are mostly ineffective.  Lilac time is a simple observation which can allow you to better control a pest problem and lessen useless applications of hazardous materials into our environment.  So next time you “stop to smell the roses,” maybe take a few notes or observations as well.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How to have a beautiful yard in the lawn run

Let’s make this easy.  Here are five things you need to do have a great lawn:

1.      Have your soil tested to know exactly what is needed to provide your lawn with the proper amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K).
2.      On average plan to feed your lawn three to four times per season using a fertilizer with 50% of its nitrogen supplied in a slow release form.
3.      Aerate your lawn to limit soil compaction and encourage deep rooting and water penetration.
4.      Control crab grass in the spring before your soil temperature reaches 50 degrees.  Do so through an application of pre-emergent herbicide.
5.      Broadleaf weed control is best completed in the spring and fall.  Use water soluble herbicides which are far superior to weed and feed products for the most effective control.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Presidential Naming

We rarely associate landscaping or gardening with our Presidents.  The one exception may of course be Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson spent most of his life researching and developing flowers and vegetables suited for America.  Much of his work can still be seen at his home in Virginia.

However we certainly enjoy naming plants for our Presidents and First Lady’s.  Did you know?

  • Two presidents have plants actually named for them:  Washingtonia, a genus of fern palms and Jeffersonia, a genus of small herbaceous perennials
  • Roses are commonly named in honor of past presidents:  Abraham Lincoln has four roses named in his honor.  Others honored by roses include: George Washington, John Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson and, Franklin Roosevelt.
  • First Ladies also get involved in naming rights for roses.  They include: Lady Bird Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, Pat Nixon, Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Laura Bush.
  • The other plants of choice in the presidential naming game are the rhododendron and azalea.  Twenty-one cultivars of this group are named for either Presidents or First Ladies

All great trivia information for your upcoming President’s Day celebration!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Forced Branches

One way to beat the winter blues is to force branches of spring blooming shrubs into flower for display in our homes.  Many of our most common early bloomers adapt well to forcing, especially:  forsythia, redbud, magnolia, cherry, flowering crab, and maybe even lilac.

Prior to forcing, the branches must have been subject to a minimum of 6 weeks exposure to temperatures below 40 degrees.  Usually that has happened in our area by late January into early February. It is best to select younger branches with many rounded, plump flower buds and a stem diameter around ½” in size.  Try to collect your materials on a day when the air temperature is above freezing.

Now prepare a bucket of warm water (approx. 100 degrees) and add a floral preservative.  Re-cut the base of each stem at an angle and quickly plunge the stem into the warm water.  Place the branches and bucket in a cool (50 degree) room having bright light but no direct sunlight.  The higher the humidity in the room the better your results will be.  You should plan on changing the water and adding new preservative weekly.

Within a few weeks you’ll see the buds swelling and the flowers will soon appear.  Arrange the branches in your favorite vase and enjoy.  Remember that the newly open flowers will last longer and be more colorful if kept out of direct sunlight, away from a heat source and kept as cool as possible. 

No spring blooming shrubs to harvest?  Stop by and we’ll help you find the right plants to add to your homes landscape for that special touch of spring.

Monday, January 5, 2015

January: What do you mean there is nothing to do?

Don’t let the calendar fool you into thinking that there is nothing to do in the garden.   January is a great time to plan, dream, and learn for the growing season yet to come.  I would suggest you investigate all the new and old varieties of plants being recommended for 2015.  Did you know 2015 has been deemed the “Year of the Coleus?”  The Perennial Plant Association has named the perennial geranium ‘Biokovo’ as its 2015 plant of the year and The Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association has named Musclewood its woody ornamental plant of the year for 2015?  All are great plants for our area and great additions this spring.

It is also a great time to learn new techniques and new garden styles.  Classes are regularly offered at places like the Green Bay Botanical Garden to help hone your gardening skills.  Vande Heys will be offering a talk there on January 30th regarding the use of edibles in the home garden.

Saturday January 24th is the date and Oshkosh the location for the Wild Ones annual symposium entitled “Toward Harmony with Nature”.  Many ideas and interesting seminars can also be found at the Brown County Home Builders Association Home Expo which runs January 15th -18th at the KI Center in Green Bay.  Of course, Vande Heys is always ready to help with an idea, provide a new plant suggestion, answer a question, or create a new landscape design.  Stop by or e-mail us at any time.

Finally don’t forget to take the time to peruse the many seed and plant catalogues that that arrive in your mailbox.  What a great way to relax on a cold winter’s day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Living Christmas Tree

Each year many people choose to bring a living tree into the home for Christmas.  Smaller potted and even some balled and burlapped evergreens make great candidates for a living Christmas tree.  Living Christmas trees should only stay in the home for 2-3 weeks and prefer cool room temperatures.  Lighting the tree with cool LED lights instead of warmer incandescent bulbs is a big help.  Treating the tree with an anti-desiccant spray such as Wilt-Stop will also slow down moisture loss.  Water the tree every day as it can never be allowed to dry out.  Once the decorations are removed, plan on planting the tree immediately.  This means that you need to plan ahead and prepare a planting hole now to receive the tree in January.

Choose a proper location in your yard to be the final home for your Christmas tree.  Take into consideration the ultimate size of the tree as well as its soil and light requirements.  Dig the hole before the ground freezes.  The size of the hole should be as deep as the root ball and 2-3 times as wide.  Amend the soil with leaf compost and store the soil in a location where it will not freeze and will be easy to access in January.  Now fill the hole with straw to slow down the frost.  At planting time, remove the straw from the hole and install the tree using the saved, unfrozen soil.  Water the plant heavily and much around the tree using the same straw that once filled the hole.  Plan on watering the tree again in the early spring once the soil has thawed.  What a great holiday tradition to begin the next year and to remember for many years to come as the trees grow and flourish.