2006 Newsletter Archive

Newsletter 11

Week 11 (6/8/2006)


“What happened to the artist with a poor memory?    He kept drawing blanks.”


I’m like this artist every time I sit down to begin the newsletter.  Although I’ve never been accused of being short on words, there is always this blank in my mind about where to start.  This week I will begin with a reminder that June is Perennial Gardening Month.  Perennials are herbaceous plants that die back to the ground in the winter but return year after year to dazzle us with color.   America’s Best Flowers has a great selection of all types of perennials for you to choose from.  Now is the perfect time to plant these wonderful additions that will provide beauty to your gardens for years to come.


Beginning this week we are featuring a Perennial of the Week.  This week our selection is Salvia ‘May Night’, a wonderful summer blooming perennial. ‘May Night’ was the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year 1997.  Featuring 18”– 24” rigid spikes of dark blue-black flowers over aromatic blue-gray leaves, this zone 3 perennial prefers full sun and average to dry garden soil.  It is a good choice for hot, dry areas.  Use freely as a border or specimen plant or in mass plantings.  ‘May Night’ is a great cut flower and attracts hummingbirds. The only caution I would have on this garden favorite is that bees love it too.  It is not the best choice to put by a frequently used doorway.  Anyone with allergies to bees should plant with caution.


“What bee is good for your health?  The Vitamin Bee.”


If you are creating a perennial garden for the first time, dig the area deeply and add organic matter, such as composted manure, to help keep moisture around the plants.  It is sometimes difficult to decide on the garden’s design when you have never worked with perennials before.  I often recommend that you place the pots of plants on top of the freshly dug soil in an arrangement that seems pleasing and then go do something else.  Come back a few hours later.  If the arrangement still looks okay, go ahead and plant.  I’ve never done this when I didn’t end up moving at least part of the pots.  This approach is much easier than digging up plants you just planted to move them.  If you still aren’t sure how they will look next year, keep in mind that they can always be moved again. The most important thing is to get started.  Come on out to any of America’s Best Flowers’ five locations and let us introduce you to the pleasures to be found in perennial gardening.


“Why was the orange tired?  It just ran out of juice.”


Are you late getting started on your gardening this year? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. As busy as we were this May, many people have commented that they haven’t even begun their planting.  That’s okay—you still have plenty of time.  With cool temperatures expected, this weekend would make a super time to “kick it off”. While our greenhouses aren’t as full as they were a few weeks ago, there are still lots of plants to choose from.  Come out and visit us and we’ll help you with all of your gardening needs. Our staff will have more time to assist you, as those busy days of May are past! 


‘Why were the teacher’s eyes crossed?  She couldn’t control her pupils.’


Tip of the Week – Capture that ‘Youthful Energy’


With school ending, kids of all ages will be looking for something to keep them busy.  America’s Best suggests getting them interested in gardening.  We host field trips every year, and are always amazed at the interesting questions kids come up with.  These questions stem from the general inquisitive nature of kids’ growing minds.  So capture some of that curiosity by letting your kids design and plant a pot, a bed, or an entire garden.  America’s Best Flowers is full of good ideas to help you get started.  (Read on). 


 “How much did it cost the pirate to have his ears pierced?   A buccaneer.




We have a great idea for the kids to give their dads for Father’s Day.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, June 13 and 14 at 6 PM, America’s Best Flowers is providing an opportunity for children to plant a very special Father’s Day Gift.  Bring one of Dad’s old shoes or boots to our Cottage Grove location, and we’ll help you turn it into a unique gift.  For a small fee we will provide everything except the shoe.  We planted up some sample ‘shoe planters’ a few weeks ago and are quite impressed with how they are looking.  So we suggest that kids of all ages would enjoy this workshop.  Call if you have questions – 222-2269.  


“What bird can you find at every meal?  A swallow.”


Garden Resolutions


“I will learn the correct pronunciation of my plants’ names!”


Just today my boss said that learning the correct names and how to say them is just like learning a language.  To that I responded, “It is, Latin.”  I was not trying to be ‘smart’, but rather to point out that learning these words is not an easy task.  Latin, commonly referred to as the dead language, is only used today in the sciences, no one actually speaks it.  That alone should tell us something.  After being around horticulture for decades, pronunciation of some of the words remains a mystery.  In some ways it’s a po-taa-toe – po-ta-toe sort of thing.  While there are die-hard horticulturalists out there who will argue for hours about how you say achillea (yarrow), my opinion is that however you say it, yarrow is a great sun-loving perennial that makes a good cut flower.  So whatever you do, when you call asking about a plant you’re looking for, don’t apologize for not knowing how to say the Latin name.  Many of us don’t either. 


Question Corner


“My husband wants to pour a new sidewalk right where my tulips bulbs are.  Can I safely move them now?”  Certainly, your tulips would be very unhappy covered in concrete.  Prepare the area where you plan to plant your bulbs by digging thoroughly.  Holes for tulips should be six to eight inches deep.  Dig some bulb fertilizer or bone meal into the bottom. When you dig the bulbs, back your spade away from the leaves so you don’t injure the bulbs.  It is fine to remove any foliage that is brown.  Keep any green leaves attached so that the process of food storage for next year’s blossoms can continue.  After covering the bulbs, water thoroughly.   


“My peonies are almost finished blooming.  What do I do for them now?”  If you didn’t cut all the blooms for bouquets, you need to deadhead any blossoms that might be remaining.  Now is a good time to apply an all-purpose fertilizer to keep the foliage growing.  It’s important to maintain adequate water all season long to insure big blooms next year.  If you notice brown leaves as the season progresses, cut them off and check the soil for moisture.  Other than that, peonies are rather self-sufficient. 


“I’ve been seeing shrubs all around town with beautiful red and pink blooms on them.  What are they?”  These wonderful shrubs are Weigela.  Available in many varieties, these hardy plants are a great addition to any yard.  While basically sun-lovers, this shrub will tolerate partial shade and still produce a beautiful show of blossoms in June.  ‘Minuet’ is a cultivar with bi-color foliage which adds even more interest to the landscape.  America’s Best Flowers just received a new shipment of weigela from our supplier, so hurry out while the selection is still good.


If you have gardening questions you would like addressed in this newsletter, please e-mail them to ed@americasbestflowers.com

Please put “Question for Newsletter” in the subject line.  Otherwise it may not

reach my desk.


“What’s long and thin, covered in skin; red in parts and put in tarts?  Rhubarb!”


This is the time of year when everyone is interested in something new to do with rhubarb.  Below you will find a couple of recipes as well as some fun ideas you might like to try.  Just for fun, I thought you might like to know a little history behind this interesting perennial plant.


Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum)


This deadly poisonous – don’t eat the leaves – plant, started out as a medicinal aid, its root is considered excellent by the Chinese for constipation and other unmentionable digestive troubles.  Rhubarb probably came from northern China originally.  The Romans named the plant after “Rha,” the river along which it grew, and ‘barbarum’, or foreign, because the territory beyond that river, today the Volga, in western Russia, didn’t belong to the Romans.


People didn’t start eating the plant’s stalks until the early 1800’s, probably because those who first tried the leaves sickened and died, thereby decreasing the rhubarb’s potential for popularity.  Rhubarb is a cool weather plant grown commercially in Poland, Russia and the United Kingdom, and a very small scale in the United States.  Icelanders enjoy eating rhubarb soup.  Americans favor strawberry rhubarb combinations.


“Rhubarb when raw is so tough

And its leaves contain poisonous stuff,

But when cleaned and de-soiled

Dipped in sugar and boiled

Then the stalks are quite tasty enough.”


Bonnie’s Kitchen


Here’s an easy breakfast dish, because you do it the day before!




French Toast

½ c all purpose flour

11/2 c milk

1T sugar

½ t vanilla

¼ t salt

6 eggs 18 slices (I” thick) French bread



2 c medium whole strawberries

2 c cut-up rhubarb (about 1 1/3 lb)

1/3 c water

1 box (4 serving size) strawberry flavor jello


Generously grease 15x10x1 inch pan with shortening or cooking spray.  In medium bowl, beat flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs with wire whisk.


Arrange bread slices to fit in single layer in pan. Pour egg mixture over bread slices; turn to coat both sides.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, but no longer that 24 hours.


Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Uncover, bake 10-13 minutes or until golden brown.


Meanwhile, in 2qt. saucepan, heat strawberries, rhubarb and water to boiling.  Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Serve warm sauce with French toast.


Here’s another tasty way to use rhubarb.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Squares


Crust and topping


1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1½ cups quick-cooking oats

2/3 cup chopped nuts

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt


Strawberry-Rhubarb Filling


2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons milk

4 eggs

4 cups sliced rhubarb (8 stalks)

4 cups sliced strawberries (2 pints)




Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.


1.    Heat over to 375 F.  In a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and vanilla.  Stir in 2 cups flour, the oats, nuts, baking soda and salt until crumbly.  Reserve 2 cups crumbly mixture.  Press remaining crumbly mixture into an ungreased 15x10x1 inch pan.

2.    In large bowl, mix granulated sugar, 2/3 cup flour, the milk and eggs with spoon until smooth.  Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.  Spoon filling onto crust.  Sprinkle with reserved crumbly mixture.

3.   Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until topping is golden brown and filling is set.  Cool slightly, about 30 minutes.  For serving pieces, cut into 5 rows by 4 rows.  Serve with whipped cream.  Store covered in refrigerator.


Recipe taken from the Betty Crocker files.


 “What is rhubarb?    Celery with high blood pressure.”



Other uses of Rhubarb


Cleaning pots and pans**

Use rhubarb to clean your pots and pans.  If your pots and pans are burned, fear not!  An application of rhubarb over the affected area will bring back the shine in no time.


Hair Color**

This is a fairly strong dye that can create a more golden hair color for persons whose hair is blond or light brown.  Simmer 3T of rhubarb root in 2c or water for 15 minutes, set aside overnight and strain.  Test on a few strands to determine the effect, if satisfied with the result, pour through the hair for a rinse.



Rhubarb leaves can be used to make an effective organic insecticide for any of the leaf eating insects (cabbage caterpillars, aphids, peach and cherry slug etc).  Boil up a few pounds of rhubarb leaves in a few pints of water for about 15 or 20 minutes.  Use an old pan that will never again be used for food.  Allow to cool, and strain the liquid into a suitable container.  Dissolve some soap flakes in this liquid and use it to spray against aphids.  Keep in mind that rhubarb leaves are poisonous (that’s why this works).  Keep the liquid away from children and pets.  Use within one to two days for the best results.


**The above information from the web, www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-uses.html .  We have not personally tested them.  We would encourage anyone brave enough to try the hair coloring to proceed with caution and then get back to us about the results.

Carol and Ed Knapton, owners of Americas's Best Flowers You’ll Love Your Garden … It’s Our Promise! May the Holy Spirit Guide You! God Bless
Edward Knapton says Keep on Smiling!
Sec – Treasurer Berry Hill Farms, Inc.
DBA Americas Best Flowers Garden Center
4311 Vilas Hope Road
Cottage Grove, WI 53527
608-222-2269 Fax 608-222-1234 Cell 608-698-5627