Chrysanthemums – Fall Fireworks

Gardening fever can set in before the first spring shoots even pop through the snow. It can fade by the time you’ve watered, weeded, pruned, and fertilized the lawn and garden through heat, wind, bugs, and hail. Those fabulous fall bloomers that have been slowly preparing themselves all season can be a lovely rejuvenating show after a long, challenging summer, reminding you that there is always something wonderful around the corner.

Chrysanthemums are a hardy, rewarding addition to any planting for vibrant fall color. Current varieties can be traced to their wild roots in China, where they were first cultivated as a flowering herb. Many countries and cultures consider the chrysanthemum to hold special meaning, commonly symbolizing nobility, death, honor, and the month of November. One variety’s blooms are used to make tea, leaves and stems are used in various ways in far eastern cuisine, and valuable pyrethrum insecticides are made from crushed blossoms. Exhibition varieties include florists’ favorite football and spider mums and can be trained into many interesting forms. Their various garden hardy forms deliver drama, bright color, and lots of long-lasting blooms on stems that don’t require staking or caging. Popular colors include deep reds, flaming oranges, and piercing yellows, but pinks, plums, and white are also lovely for blending with other fall selections.

Versatile mums can be happy in beds or containers in full sun with well-drained, fertile soil, but want to have dry feet and need room to develop their bushy habit throughout the summer. They pair well in a bed with spring bloomers that die back through the summer and leave room for dense mounds to form without competition. When mums are crowded they can be especially susceptible to molds and disease, so they respond well to division (in the spring) every three to five years. Also plan for rotation to prevent disease. Mums bloom in response to the seasonal changes in light (photoperiodic) as summer wanes, so don’t place them near street lamps and other sources of artificial light. Most will tolerate light frost and make a delightful little cut flower after other summer blooms have faded. Potted mums can be overwintered in a cool, brightly lit room indoors with limited watering, and should be gradually acclimatized to the garden in spring (protected outdoors during the day and in that cool room at night) while days get longer but frost is still a danger.

Make selections from varieties that appeal to your tastes for size, color, flower type and bloom time. They can be planted from seed, cuttings, or purchased from nursery stock (most commonly in late summer or early fall). When transplanting your established plants or intmums.jpgroducing nursery stock, allow the roots to establish during cooler weather rather than the hottest days of summer for best results, but at least six weeks before killing frost. Consider overwintering potted mums when purchased during fall holidays for planting in spring. Some folks recommend pinching for encouraging a bushy habit and more abundant blooms, but many common varieties don’t need this special treatment to become a tight mound covered in gorgeous blooms from early to late fall. Become familiar with the variety you choose to make the best decisions regarding planting, pinching, and placement.

Compiled from Wikipedia, Chrysanthemum Flowers: What Are “Hardy Mums”? by David Beaulieu, and experience by Corinna Sinclair


What do plants have to do with a root canal?

Gutta-percha refers to the rubbery sap of the Palaquiiun gutta, a tropical ever-green tree found in Malaysia and Indonesia. Gutta-percha has been used to insulate underwater telegraph wires, to make ornate jewelry and pistol grips, and as the core material in golf balls.

However, what I find to be most fascinating about gutta percha is how it is used in dentistry to fill the empty spaces inside the root of the tooth after it has undergone endodontic therapy. Dentists use gutta percha points that look like small toothpicks to fill the prepared space. The physical and chemical properties (inertness, biocompatibility, ductility, thermo plasticity, malleability and melting point) make gutta percha ideal for this use. Gutta-percha points become flexible when heated and can be compressed into and against the walls of the root canal, then when cooled it becomes hard, durable, non-brittle, non-elastic latex that retains the form of the root canal to seal it.

Just another way plants make our lives better.

Submitted by: Elaine Allard


A Tour at the Montana Audubon Center

On July 16, 2016, we were in for a treat. As we made our way to the Montana Audubon Center, a group of early birdwatchers were ready with binoculars for a morning of viewing and identifying our feathered friends. We too were ready to take in the sweet smell of sage and the songs of birds calling from the trees.

We were met by Trinity Pierce, Land Stewardship Coordinator and former Master Gardener, who invited us to pick a variety of mint leaves to tear apart and place in a jar of sun tea for refreshment after the tour. A woman in our group also used the leaves on her legs as a bug repellant.

Since 1998, volunteers have been reclaiming an old gravel mine, planting 65,000 native trees, shrubs, and grasses just of of South Billings Boulevard. The Center is a cooperative partnership with YRPA, YVAS and the Montana Audubon. The Center was build with conservation and place-based education in mind for people of all ages to learn about the birds, plants, bugs, and aquatic creatures of the Yellowstone River riparian area. Children go there for field trips, classes, summer camps, and after school programs, and adults can enjoy the Center on Sun-days, when they offer canoeing, bird watching, and other fund activities. Nearby Norm Schoenthal‘s Island is a great place to walks dogs, explore the trails, or cross-country ski in the winter.

Trinity and her volunteers have done a great job preserving the natural landscape and native plants, encouraging them through much mulching and coaxing. There were clusters of beautiful Blanket Flowers, Echinacea, Cone-flowers, Blue Flax, Mustard and many other wildflowers to attract pollinators. Trinity took us to the three ponds where children can conduct research, enjoy the thrills of canoeing, and may be experience a turtle or two. Giant cottonwoods and willows surround the water, providing habitat for many varieties of wildlife.

As we savored our herbal tea, Trinity showed us the Center, named after the dedicated Norm Schoenthal, she told us that it recycles water as it is used inside. Children use the Center as a lab, and gain hands-on experience with identification of plants and animals. A lot of respect and hard work has gone into the reclaiming and healing of this area of the Yellowstone. It is a hopeful place. The tea was delicious too! A combination of chocolate, pineapple, and apple mint leaves, fragrant and cool.

Submitted by: Julie Osslund

Utah Sheep Ranchers Turn Wool Waste into Cash

CROYDON, Utah – Two brothers from Croydon may have just invented a product that could keep sheep farmers employed for years to come.

“It’s a game changer. It could save the sheep industry here in Utah,” said sheep farmer Logan Wilde.

Wilde and his brother Albert are sixth-generation sheep ranchers in the town northeast of Salt Lake City.

In the past few months, Logan Wilde said his brother approached him with an idea to make some money on the side.

“I was like, ‘Oh man, here we go again,'” Logan Wilde said with a laugh.

Now, that idea is grabbing some attention from people across the country.

“They’re like ‗wow,‘” Albert Wilde said of his invention. “Who would have thought you could take waste wool and do something with it?”

The Wilde brothers say only 75 percent of a sheep’s wool is good enough to be used for clothing, the other 25 percent usually gets thrown away. But Albert Wilde thought of a way to take that trash and turn a profit.

“This is something no one has ever heard of before,” Albert Wilde said. “We take that wool, and we make it into small pellets and then use that in gardening to put into plants.”

Albert Wilde explains that the wool can hold 10 times its weight in water, which is helpful for plants for nour-ishment.

The brothers say the product has only been available for a month, but already they’ve sold over 500 units and have had inquiries from all over the world. – Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Article By: Jeff McAdam Photograph By: Maurice King

Submitted by Corinna Sinclair, reprinted from: Turn-Wool-Waste-into-Cash.aspx

Hail Protection Projects

One of the most heartbreaking losses a gardener faces is hail damage. In minutes the yard can go from beautiful to broken. My farming background has prepared me well for the destruction a violent battering by small (or larger) ice balls can wreak on a garden, but for my husband it’s a completely new experience.

His resistance to losing it all to a big black cloud has led to some ingenious building projects in the back yard. Together he and I have engineered a few versions of prevention on the theme of screen protection for our larger planting areas.


The first experiment was a hidden roll of mesh tarp under the arbor atop a raised bed. We used three lengths of metal conduit – one to suspend the tarp between the uprights and two to create rigid weights along the bottom edges that both keep the tarp down and serve as a core for rolling it up.


Stretch cords and screw hooks keep the tarp down and off the plants. Similar cords and hooks hold the roll up inside the chamber when not deployed. This tarp has proven helpful for keeping hail out but letting some light, rain, and wind through. It is flexible enough to resist tearing and tough enough to take a beating.

Several smaller projects provide protection for our clematis and a couple of wall gardens. These versions are not as camouflaged, but are quite effective. They also utilize conduit but the material is a plastic mesh, much more course than the tarp we used on the ‘farm’. It is also rolled up and secured with Velcro straps rather than bungee cords.


When deployed there are cast-off tent poles, minus their shock-cord, used to hold the screen away from the plants, attached by zip-ties to the conduit at the bottom edge. The short poles rest at a right angle to the fence in modified conduit clips (not pictured).

A similar design was employed to protect the prize clematis. These photos prove that the system only works when you have time to deploy…the before and the after.

The initial design used on the first raised bed was also used on the second raised bed with minor modifications. They come down quickly, and even if we are going to be gone a few days the shades can stay down without damaging the plants below. One of the weaknesses of these screens as they are is that once the plants get too big, about halfway through the season, putting the screens down can do some damage as well. They are also easier to put down and roll up with two people, but given enough time one of us can do it just fine.

Now to figure out how to protect the big pots as well…


Submitted by Corinna Sinclair