Pam Palechek Fiani on Eight Months of Color at February Meeting

At the February membership meeting, Pam Palechek Fiani helped combat winter blahs with ideas for different plants to add for color and interest in the garden from March through October. Her presentation included a timeline on the bottom of all her slides indicating the primary month to enjoy each plant's best features. She covered the plants in chronological order and provided a two-page handout that might double as a shopping list.

Between each month, Pam provided a design tip including the value of photographing your garden in spring for some tough decision-making, after the thrill of spring wears off, when you decide that the purple flowers need a light color behind them for contrast and that the pink and orange blooms next to each other are not what you want next year. She talked about the need for focal points, natural or man-made, with man-made focal points such as pots, benches or sundials often overpowering natural focal points such as shaped shrubs, ornamental trees or the tallest plant. Pam talked about the value of putting something behind the focal point and of framing.

As she covered her list of plants, Pam included maintenance tips for plants that bloom repeatedly after haircuts, planting tips for bulbs that get a better start after being moistened overnight, and placement tips for plants that survive rabbits and/or deer. She included information about plants that stay put and those that spread, making a distinction between those that spread enough to share with a few friends and those that will take over the county.

A tiny sampling of items from her suggestions (two pages, single spaced) include:

  • MARCH -- Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
  • APRIL -- Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), Primrose (Primula x polyantha), and drumstick primrose (P. denticulate)
  • MAY -- Summer snowflake (Luecojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant')
  • JUNE -- Prarie smoke (Geum triflorum)
  • JULY -- Blue globe thistle (Echinops exaltatus)
  • AUGUST -- Joseph's coat (Amaranthus tricolor 'Illumination")
  • SEPTEMBER -- Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrid, "September Charm,' 'Margarete')
  • OCTOBER -- Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) and Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)


Gail Morrell on Garden Tools at January Meeting

Gail Morrell kicked off MGAWC’s 2016 educational programming with an outstanding talk on garden tools. Gail brought her own collection of tools for show and tell. She also offered suggestions from other professional gardeners.

NOTE:  Neither Gail nor MGAWC are endorsing specific products. Listed suppliers are provided for reference only. Prices are approximates as of late 2015. All figures are in US dollars.

Hand-held Weeder – Gail loves the Gertrude Jekyll two-pronged container/indoor weeder. Weight matters. Lighter weight tools are easier to use for longer periods of time. Shorter prongs are less likely to bend.

  • 4.25 ounce Jekyll weeder $22.50 at (800-267-8767)
  • Soil knife, perhaps a more macho choice, $19 at A. M. Leonard Horticultural Tool & Supply Co., (800-543-8955), weighs more than the Jekyll weeder.

Pruners -- A long-time user of Felco products, #2 classic at $54 or #6 for smaller hands at $57, Gail is now using Okatsune 7 1/8" and 8" hand-held pruners for $55 and $64, all available from A. M. Leonard.

Weed Bucket -- Five-gallon buckets are often available for free. Gail prefers a seven-gallon Tubtrug for $13 from Gardener's Supply Company, (800-876-5520). Because the Tubtrug is more flexible, Gail can use it as a watering can to pour water slower to avoid washing away newly planted items and she can carry loads without banging the bucket into her leg. Tubtrugs come in lots of colors so you can color-code your crew and know who left the bucket behind.

Gloves -- Gail is not much of a glove wearer, but her professional counterparts suggest Atlas Nitrile for $9 at and Mudd gloves for $10 at various stores. The Atlas gloves are thinner than the Mudd gloves.

Gail buys disposable gloves for $20 (400-count pack from Costco). Disposable gloves are especially helpful when dealing with poison ivy. It can't hurt to put a pair of disposable gloves in your back pocket just in case you need them.

Three-prong Cultivator -- $10 at various stores or a hand hoe/handy weeder for $15 from The handy weeder is hand-specific, designed for either right-handed or left-handed use.

Soil Scoop -- $20 from The hand-held Soil Scoop is great for detailed digging, especially working around irrigation systems without cutting lines, or planting annuals.

Pruning Saw -- Corona 7" razor tooth folding saw for $20 or Corona 6 3/4" folding saw for $34, both from Gail buys new saws every year and uses old pruning saws to divide ornamental grasses.

Loppers -- Bahco loppers with 1 1/4" cutting capacity and bumpers for $73 from

Hedge Shears -- Okatsune 7" blade for $110 or Bahco 9 1/2" blade for $84, both from The Okatsune shears cut hedges like butter but the tool lacks bumpers. Depending on how you are pruning hedges, try using them upside down.

Root Knife -- serrated sod knife for $28.50 (or the discontinued serrated root knife with a curved tip, kinda looked like a kitchen knife on steroids) from

For the larger tools, Gail recommends stainless steel for longer use.

Shovel -- Radius-brand ergonomic stainless steel digging spade, 43 1/2", 5 pounds and 4 ounces, for $62.50 at have the circle on the top instead of the traditional handle. It also has a small ledge for your foot to apply more force when digging.

Bed Edger -- Radius-brand ergonomic stainless steel bed edger, 38", 4 pounds, for $54.50 at

Fork -- Throw away forks with broken tines. Try Radius-brand ergonomic stainless steel digging fork, 43", 4 pounds and 13 ounces, for $109 at

Rake -- metal tines with a wood handle for most work, around $18, or plastic teeth with a wood handle for some projects, around $15 at various stores, also adjustable tine rakes and/or hand-held rakes

Watering Can -- galvanized 1.5 gallon, for $29 at Galvanized because the plastic ones break. Gail uses watering cans instead of hoses so she knows how much water she's getting on the plant. She recommends watering cans with the rose (sprinkler end) that screws on and off.

Dust Pan -- A large aluminum dust pan, probably larger that you might use in your kitchen, can be useful for a variety of tasks. Various options at stores including Duke's Hardware or one for $18 from For larger dust pans, check that the material is stiff enough that it does not bend.


  • Most of these tools are sharp and dangerous and--duh--not suitable for use by children or others who require supervision for their own protection. Please take all appropriate precautions.
  • If your tools frequently hide in your garden, you might want to consider painting them a color that will make them easier to find.
  • Don't forget to wear sturdy boots or shoes, insect repellant and sun protection including sun screen and hat.

DISCLAIMER:  Neither Gail nor MGAWC are endorsing specific products. Listed suppliers are provided for reference only.

The Calendar Garden in New Paris, Indiana

The looping slides in the background at the December potluck were of the Calendar Garden at the DeFries Gardens in New Paris, Indiana, not far from Elkhart, Indiana, and the Michigan border.

We visited the Calendar Garden in September of 2014 as part of the Michiana Master Gardener Conference. The garden designer lead an break-out session during the conference. The Calendar Garden is set up with three concentric circular paths and four seasonal quadrants connected with four linear paths for the autumn and spring equinoxes and for the winter and summer solstices. At each quadrant--basically 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock--there is a structure: a small enclosed building with a fireplace for winter, a greenhouse for spring, a pavilion with roof-top viewing for summer, and a small partially enclosed building with a porch for autumn.

There is a pond in the center. The main path, a circle with a diameter of probably 365 feet, is brick. Every third brick is labeled for a day of the year. Cultivated plants are inside the main path and native plants are on the outside of the circle. The plantings at each area are placed to help gardeners select more plants that will add interest to their garden throughout the year. For example, the January and February areas contain a lot of conifers. Despite the seasonal placement, the overall garden looked great in September. Based on on-line photographs, the Calendar Garden--like most well designed garden with quality hardscaping--looks great year-round. On the Internet, you can find lots of information and plenty of pictures starting at

Garlic: Good for the body and taste buds

Les and Donna Abel of the Michigan Garlic Farm shared information about their 35,000 hardneck garlic plants that are planted, weeded and harvested by hand on their farm in Livingston County, where they do not use pesticides or herbicides. The hardneck garlic is particularly interesting because it must be grown by hand and cannot be mechanically farmed.

Based on over 25 years of growing gourmet garlic, the Abels talked about the differences between hardneck (or topset) and softneck garlic and between bulbs and scapes. Of the many cultivars of garlic, the Abels grow Northern Jewel, a variety from the purple stripe group. Les and Donna discussed growing (popping, planting in October/November, fertilizing, mulching and watering), harvesting in June/July, cleaning, drying, curing, storing (including freezing, but not refrigerating) and replanting.

The Abels sell their garlic products—bulbs, granules and powders (regular or smoked), braids and scapes—at farmers markets in Ann Arbor, Brighton, Canton, Dearborn, Farmington, Howell, Milford, Pittsfield and Saline. On June 11, they sold fresh scapes and dehydrated products. The Michigan Garlic Farm website contains extensive information including recipes at

Dean Krauskopf Ph.D of 760 WJR Shares Gardening Wisdom

In his annual spring talk to MGAWC members on April 9th, 2015, Dean Krauskopf, Ph.D., host of The Gardening Show on News/Talk 760 WJR, put weather conditions into a broader context, discussed the lowest temperatures the last two winters, shared the latest information about the top problems he expects gardeners to deal with this year, and provided links to accurate information that members might use or pass on to others. He also answered gardening questions from the audience. 

Dean retired from MSU as the Integrated Crop Management Agent for Southeastern Michigan. He taught many Master Gardener training classes, often speaks atGrowing with Master Gardeners, and is the inspiration for MGAWC's annual Dean Krauskopf Award for volunteer contributions to community education. His doctorate in horticulture is from North Carolina State University. 

Here are some resources that Dean provided: 

Attracting and Supporting Bluebirds in Michigan

Kurt Hagemeister, President, Michigan Bluebird Society presented 'Attracting Bluebirds in Michigan' at the MGAWC February membership meeting.

Because of habitat loss, environmental pollution, and competition of non-native bird species such as House Sparrows and European Starlings, bluebirds have suffered large declines compared to their original numbers, but bluebirds have been shown to thrive in areas where there is human-provided housing that is actively monitored. (source:

Visit the Michigan Bluebird Society's website to learn how to support the Michigan bluebird population,

Henry Ford Estate Garden Restoration

Karen Marzonie, Director of Landscapes, Henry Ford Estate-Fair Lane spoke to us about some of the history of the Henry Form Estate (HFE).  Outdoor projects include the Tea House plantings, a Garden Market Sale in May, a Garden Symposium in June and the Dearborn Symphony on the Lawn in September. Our donation made possible the restoration of the Garden Gate Door, which had to be completely reconstructed and painted back to its original color.