Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Archive for October 2011

Fall Herb Care

leave a comment »

Hey All – thought you would like this great article on herbs written by Rita Lynn for our October View.  To read the full edition, please click here: http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/pdfs/The%20View%20Volume%204%20Issue%2010.pdf

(You can also sign up online to receive our monthly e-newsletter at http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/newsletter.asp )


(left to right: basil, dill and parsley)

Looking over my yard, I see lots of healthy herbs that will not survive the winter.  It seems a shame to let all their savory goodness go to waste with the frost.  Sources tell me, unfortunately, many are past their prime with regard to using them now.  Most herbs are best harvested for fresh use before flowering, preferably no less than a month before the first frost.  That’s when their flavorful and aromatic oils are at their peak, and that time has obviously passed.

There are exceptions to this rule.  Annual herbs such as basil can be harvested until frost, assuming that they have been cut back so as to prevent blooming.   When herbs such as dill are grown for their seeds, the seeds should be harvested as the seed pods change in color from green to brown.  In cases such as lavender, we can enjoy cutting and drying any flowers that have bloomed.  And herbs such as parsley can be harvested until they are killed by a hard frost.

We don’t have to abandon our herbs until spring, however.  We can enjoy fresh herbs throughout the winter if we bring the plants inside before their foliage is damaged by frost.  (Exceptions to this are mint, chives, and tarragon.  A light frost induces a rest period in these plants, resulting in firm and fresh new growth.)  A potting mix of two parts sterilized potting soil and one part coarse sand or perlite, “sweetened” with ground limestone or a teaspoon of lime per 5-inch pot, is recommended.  The potted herbs will need a sunny window – south- or west-facing – and might also enjoy the additional light of a grow lamp.  Most importantly, pots need to provide good drainage.

Then there is one final outdoor chore for the herb garden this fall.  Any herbs that are hardy enough to survive our winters, such as chives, mints, and some varieties of sage, may benefit from winter protection in the garden.  Four inches of mulch can protect them from heaving during spring thaws.  The mulch should be applied after the ground has frozen and should not be removed until the plants show signs of growth in the spring.  Then we can wait with our favorite recipes to use the first fresh growth of the new season.



“Growing Herbs in the Home Garden,” http://www.wvu.edu/~agesten/hortcult/herbs/ne208hrb.htm


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 28, 2011 at 6:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Garden Walk: Hearst Center for the Arts

leave a comment »

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite gardens in Cedar Falls is tucked in behind the Hearst Center for the Arts at 304 West Seerley Boulevard.  The space has an un-manicured, no-fuss feel with several flowerbeds filled with natural plantings that make the space feel cozy and inviting.  I love to meet friends for picnic lunches on their sunny patio or just take a quick stroll along their paths.


(click on photos for larger view)

The gardens are fading for the season, but it is still a great place to visit on a sunny fall day because of the wonderful signage found throughout the garden.  The center has placed James Hearst’s poem in several pockets of the garden – the above center photo shows one of those signs along the path to the right.

Here is one of the poems you can find in the garden:


The Gardener

When in the sun and armed with shears

and gloves I know begin to strip

the garden’s bed where frost has lain

this autumn day snip by snip



I trim the hedge, I rake the leaves,

I dig bulbs, pile dead vine and stalk

in basket after basket full

to carry and burn, I turn and walk



past clumps of asters still in bloom

as still blooms grief I have to keep-

I wish I knew how I could choose

what heart will need when love’s asleep.



I spy a patch of grass still green,

a hawk draws circles in the sky,

but slant rays of the sun at noon

warn me to put the summer buy.



Spring seems to shimmer in the air

No farther than the coat I shed,

But in my bones I feel a chill

Not of today but what’s ahead.



James Hearst, 1971



Hope you will visit this garden soon – it is worth the trip any season!

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 26, 2011 at 6:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Signs of Winter

leave a comment »


Winter.  A dreaded word for some (like my husband!).  But no matter our opinions of the upcoming season, Mother Nature is marching forward and we have to get ready.  Preparing for snow and the colder temperatures is quite a process at the Arboretum and we have to start early to get everything done.


Here are two quick looks at a few things we do to prepare for winter.  The photo on the left shows the inside of our new barn quickly filling up.  To keep our outdoor furniture (tables, chairs and benches) from weathering, we bring as much as we can indoors.  Having the new barn has been a tremendous help.  In years past, we have had to store all our furniture in the Education Center – often precariously stacked to the ceiling!


The photo on the right shows the Arrival Gardens fenced in with chicken wire.  Those little rabbits can do a real number on our plant material during the winter – especially to our arborvitaes surrounding the Rose Garden and the burning bushes in the Arrival Gardens.  A few years ago, the burning bushes (center of photo) were eaten to the ground.  They have finally grown back – and had beautiful color this fall!


Special thanks to the volunteers who work so hard to prepare our gardens for winter!



See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Crocus — Let’s Plan for Spring!

leave a comment »

Hey All – thought you would like this great article from our October View.  Read below for some timely information about the spring-flowering crocus from Pat McGivern.

To read the full newsletter, please click here: http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/pdfs/The%20View%20Volume%204%20Issue%2010.pdf

(You can also sign up online  to receive our monthly e-newsletter at http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org/newsletter.asp )


As our fall days are rapidly growing shorter, we need to plan now to see some of the first colorful blooms push though our late winter beds to welcome spring.  Crocus are easy to grow, inexpensive, and readily available to plant this month–as they should be planted before the ground freezes.

Crocus (plural crocuses or croci) is a genus in the iris family comprising about 80 species of perennials growing from corms.  The name of the genus is derived from the Greek krokos, which is a word believed to be borrowed from similar words in Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, and Arabic, meaning saffron, or saffron yellow.  The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, an autumn/fall blooming species.  Crocus are native to those areas of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.  Frescos of crocus are found on ancient sites on Crete and Santorini.  Crocus were brought by corms to the Netherlands in the 1560’s by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador, and by 1620 new garden varieties had been developed.

Crocus have cup shaped solitary flowers that taper in a narrow tube, and the leaves are grasslike, often with a white stripe along the leaf axis.   Both the flowers and leaves are protected from frost by a waxy cuticle, thus it is not uncommon to see crocus bloom during late winter or early spring snowfalls.  Among the cultivated varieties, C. tommasinianus is the first to flower.  The larger (still only about 4 inches) “Dutch crocuses,” C. vernus, bloom a bit later in spring.  Many colors are available, but purple, lilac, yellow, and white are predominate.

Most crocus do best planted in sunny well drained soil, although they can thrive anywhere not in dense shade.  They are tough and hardy, but can rot in soggy ground.  Plant to depth of package instructions, most are 3 to 4  inches deep, plant corm with pointy end up. Crocus beds can be fertilized in late autumn, or soon after flowering in the spring so the corms have time to utilize the extra nutrients.  Water the beds in fall if weather is extremely dry. It is reported that deer, squirrels, and rabbits rarely bother these little plants and corms.

So, let’s get out and plant now to renew our spirits next spring.  You will see why, in the language of flowers, crocus means cheerfulness.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 24, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Home Garden Makeover

leave a comment »

Usually I don’t share personal stories on the Arboretum blog, but thought you might be inspired by this small garden makeover.  Do you remember when I shared with you our Shade Garden makeover in September?  To read more about that fun project, click here: https://cedarvalleyarboretum.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/shade-garden-remodel-%E2%80%93-come-and-see-all-the-improvements/.  After that post, I had many folks want to know how they could create the same inviting space at their own homes – two of them being my mom and dad!

(Arboretum Shade Garden late this summer.)

Shade gardens are one of my favorite spaces to work on.  The trees overhead bring such a nice sense of scale to the garden – kind of like a blanket wrapping around you as you walk through the garden.  I am also a very big fan of hosta, with their wide variety of color, size and form.

My parent’s front yard was in desperate need of a makeover, so it didn’t take much arm twisting on my end to jump in and help.


(Front yard before the makeover.  A row of yews are planted along the foundation with hostas in front.  The area is so shady that little to no grass will grow under the river birch tree.)

The photo on the right shows how bad the lawn really is up close – the space is so shaded that they just can’t get any grass to grow (and they have tried many times)!  In addition to a lackluster lawn, the space needed some curb appeal – needed some color and texture to create a more inviting entry.


Once we were all on board with creating a front yard shade garden, I went about amending the soil.  Since there was practically no grass growing in the desired space, I first went in and turned over the soil with a small tiller.  The soil in this space was VERY bad (a dense, sandy soil with no organic material), so we hauled in three truckloads of compost to spread over the space at about 2 inches thick.

Originally, we were going to order topsoil from a local company but they were unable to deliver due to rain earlier in the week.  Because we were already committed to the project (and just plain stubborn), we forged ahead and went to the local landfill to pick up three truckloads of compost.  (Compost like this can be risky to use because you don’t know if it carries diseases, etc.   I knew it was good compost because I have used it before at the Arboretum on a project.)  Compost was $5.00 a truckload.

Note:  If you wanted to create a new garden at your home where there is currently lawn, you could spray the space with a grass killer (can be found at any garden center).   You could also cut the grass out with a sod cutter or by hand with a spade (by hand is not as fun, but certainly a good workout!).   A third option is to prep the flowerbeds during the fall and wait to plant until spring – perfect option for right now!  Simply cover the space with a thick layer of newspaper and water down.  On top of the newspaper, add a thick layer of mulched leaves and soak again.  By next spring, the grass will have died and the material on top will have started to decompose.  Simply till your new flowerbed to incorporate all that wonderful organic material.

Starting a new garden with organic-rich soil is the most important step of garden makeover.  If you aren’t going to provide the nutrients needed to encourage lush, healthy plant material, why even spend all that money on the plants?

Did you notice the defined edge of the flowerbed shown on the photo on the right?  I try to never use fabricated edging in my gardens and instead just cut a line in with a flat spade.


Once the flowerbed was amended, we divided and replanted the hostas my parents already had along the foundation.  I should mention that in general, October is a little late for dividing hostas – August or September would have been better.  But since this is the time we had available and my parents weren’t emotionally attached to the hostas (they aren’t going to cry if some die next spring!) so we decided to go for it.  Hostas, especially the hardy varieties we were working with, are very forgiving and I rarely have troubles with dividing this late in the season.

After dividing, we had probably 30 hostas – half of the basic green and half of the basic white variegated.  We then planted the hostas  together in several large sections to provide a consistency throughout the space  — these basic hosta will act as our filler to tie all aspects of the garden together.   You can see in the photo on the left that the three sections of hostas are spread out in the shape of a triangle.

I always love starting new garden in the fall because plant material is SO CHEAP in the garden centers.  I ran out to the big box stores before we started and found beautiful, well-established dark red coral bell for 83 CENTS EACH – at that price I felt like I was stealing them!  I also grabbed some $1.00 fens and 6-packs of pachysandra groundcover.  We planted the coral bells and ferns in large sections and the pachysandra around the tree base where the large roots wouldn’t allow large planting holes for hostas, etc.

The photo on the right shows the full garden with plant material circling out around the river birch.  There is still a lot of area that needs plant material that we covered with mulched leaves for now to stop washout.  Next spring, we will plant some more interesting varieties of hosta as well as pockets of annuals like coleus and impatiens to add a pop of color.

I hope this little garden makeover inspired you!  Have a garden question you’d like to see answered?  Just send me an email at director@cedarvalleyarboretum.org.


See you in the gardens.




Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 21, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Calling All Volunteers!

leave a comment »





You are invited to the Arboretum for an end of the growing year luncheon, to thank you for all you have done in 2011!

As another growing season comes to an end and we are reminded of the cycle of seasons, please join us to note and honor this time.  We invite you to come to the Arboretum on Saturday, October 22nd,10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

If the weather is nice, we will have some final garden chores to complete if you would like to get outdoors.  Volunteers are welcome to attend and just socialize.

Whether you work in the gardens or hold a seat on one of our essential committees, we want to celebrate all our volunteers who do so many things to create and steward our beautiful gardens, so all are welcome!   

Please email Mollie at director@cedarvalleyarboretum.org with any questions.


See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


leave a comment »

What a beautiful week it has been at the Arboretum!  Here a few photos of the gardens and grounds for you to enjoy – come out and visit this weekend!

(from left to right: turtlehead, windflower, toad lily and aster)

I love how the Arboretum is on the edge of town – even the sites of agriculture around us are pretty right now!


After that early frost, who would have thought the gardens would still look so good?  Our annuals are still plugging away!

Have a great weekend.  See you in the gardens!

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized