Surprise Visitors

by OCMGA member Rich Fischer

While walking to the mail box I noticed a bunch of grass in one of my wife Pat’s metal ball art sculptures.   Upon closer inspection I saw a mamma robin sitting on a nest of three blue eggs.   Who knew!    Those robins have good taste in metal art.    

Glorious Summer

by OCMGA member Carey Pederson

Carey sent in the attached photo, saying “Freezing raspberries freshly picked from the yard, drying lavender picked from the yard and a newly hatch monarch our daughter raised from a caterpillar.  All in one glorious day!”

This is why we love summer!

Dame’s Rocket

I was in northern Wisconsin recently and saw a home garden that was full of Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). The Wisconsin DNR defines the plant as “Showy, short-lived perennial or biennial, 3-4’ tall. Flowering stalks emerge in spring.” While beautiful, this plant (like the also beautiful, but invasive, Purple Loosestrife) is considered an invasive species in Wisconsin and should not be uprooted and planted elsewhere. The classification in Wisconsin is “Restricted”, which is defined as ‘invasive species that are already established in the state and cause or have the potential to cause significant environmental or economic harm or harm to human health…’.

Beautiful but invasive Dame’s Rocket.

Ecological threat:

  • Invades moist and mesic woodlands, on woodland edges, and along roadsides, and in open areas.
  • Dame’s rocket is thought by many to be a native wildflower and is found in wildflower seed mixes and planted as an ornamental
  • It quickly escapes cultivation because of its prolific seed set.

Creating a beautiful home garden can be time-consuming and expensive, so there is always a lure to uproot plants found in the forests, fields, and along the highways, replanting them in our gardens. However, without proper research, we could actually be furthering a problem — such as the homeowner who had been transplanting the Dame’s Rocket into her home garden. It is, indeed, a beautiful and showy plant but, eventually, will take over the entire garden space and crowd out other, perhaps more expensive, plants. Additionally, without doing proper research, you may find that you’ve dug up an endangered and protected wildflower for which you may be fined by the state.

Dealing with Invasives

In theory, nurseries and seed companies stay abreast of what’s invasive and will refuse to supply the means of garden ruin or ecological destruction; but in practice, that’s asking a lot. The line between “trouble-free” and “invasive” is often a fine one, and just as realtors often mean no plumbing when they describe an old house as unspoiled, catalogs often mean “invasive” when they say “rapidly forms an excellent ground cover.” Catalogs are hampered by commercial needs (upbeat attitude, simple descriptions, national audience), while the best knowledge about which plants are doing what is always local, always evolving, but not always cheerful, and not always explicable in one or two sentences.

That being the case, there are two keys to a clear conscience — and an easy mind about future weed problems. One is the Department of Natural Resources list of plants that have been deemed invasive. The Wisconsin DNR page is listed here:, and the second is through your local university extension office. For Wisconsin, that information can be found at

Hop Vines


There are thousands of beautiful, comparatively trouble-free plants that never show up in garden centers. The reasons for their absence are as various as the sellers who don’t stock them (and the wholesalers who don’t supply them), but whatever the problem is with hops, it’s not that they’re hard to grow.

Common hop (Humulus lupulus) is hardy in zones 4 to 8, and thrives in almost any well-drained soil of moderate fertility. The vines want sun but will climb to find it, so you can plant them in partial shade if you don’t mind scantily clad stems in the lower regions. Their main vulnerability is to fungus diseases, so don’t plan hops where they will be crowded, and be sure they get good air circulation.

There are lots of varieties to choose from, though many have subtle differences interesting only to brewers. From the ornamental standpoint, the big choice is between the green-leaved sorts and the cultivars that have golden foliage. There is also an ornamental hop, H. japonicus ‘Variegatus,’ with variegated foliage in green and white.

The cone-shaped flowers of the female hop plant are pretty as sculpture but not especially showy or colorful, and they have a strong odor some people find unpleasant. You’ll need a female if you do want the flowers — for viewing, brewing, or putting in hop pillows to promote peaceful sleep (see below). Otherwise, get a male; it too has flowers, but they are much smaller.

The planting site should be one with lawn around it and a tall, strong trellis (or sturdy tree) on which the hop can grow; these vines tend to run both immense and amok. The immensity is mostly straight up, and amok is easy to control by mowing, but beware of putting a hop at the edge of uncultivated land. Once the roots are well established, new shoots can come up 15 feet — and more — away from the parent plant.


Hop Pillows: Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a bittering, flavoring, and stability agent in beer, to which, in addition to bitterness, they impart floral, fruity, or citrus flavors and aromas.Scientific research shows that hops, with its natural sedative effects, can increase sleep time. Hops also helps to lower body temperature—falling core body temperature is one important physiological step toward sleep. Hops has also been shown to reinforce the body’s daily bio rhythms of rest and activity. Hop pillows can be made by hand or purchased via various sites.

10 Tips for Spring Pruning Success

by Melinda Myers (see more tips from Melinda at

Early spring is a great time to do a bit of pruning. Knowing what to prune and when will help you achieve the best results for the health of your plants and beauty in your landscape.

·      Remove dead, damaged and rubbing stems and branches back to healthy growth. Prune just above an outward facing bud, branch or main stem and flush with the branch bark collar on trees.

·      Check plants for and remove the swollen growths of black knot on plum and cherry trees and sunken discolored cankers on the stems of trees and shrubs. Prune 6 to 9” below the canker and disinfect tools between cuts.

·      When pruning diseased material be sure to disinfect tools between cuts with a spray disinfectant or rubbing alcohol.

·      Prune summer blooming Annabelle-type hydrangeas, potentillas and spireas to encourage compact sturdy growth. Cut all the stems back halfway and half of these back to ground level.

·      Rejuvenate overgrown suckering shrubs by removing a third of the older and larger stems back to ground level. Reduce the overall height, if needed, by no more than a fourth. Repeat for the next few years.

·      Prune fruit trees and fruiting vines to increase flowering and subsequent fruiting.

·      Improve their appearance by removing faded flowers left on shrubs for winter interest. Be careful not to remove any flower buds already formed on spring flowering shrubs.

·      Wait until after spring flowering shrubs bloom to prune if you want to maximize the floral display. Consider doing more severe pruning, when needed, in late winter or early spring when it is less stressful for the plant. Force the trimmings into flower and enjoy in a bouquet indoors.

·      Make sure your tools are sharp, so the pruning cuts close quickly and use aquality bypass pruner, like the Corona® BP 6310. Through April 5, you can get it for only $29.88 + free shipping – a savings of 40% off the regular price.

Simply visit Corona’s website and use the code SAVE40MM to receive 40% off + free shipping! If you need help on how to get the 40% off + free shipping, visit for instructions.

·      Remember to keep yourself safe by wearing safety glasses and heavy-duty gloves. It’s too easy to focus on the task and end up with a stick in the eye or scratches and bruises. Consider synthetic leather gauntlet style gloves like Foxgloves extra protection gloves that protect hands and forearms from harm.

Stay safe and healthy!