Dear Master Gardener: I have a woodland garden and was wondering if there are any types of lilies that will grow well in shade.
Answer: Yes, the martagon lily is well-suited for a woodland garden and performs best in a semi-shaded area with filtered light and cool conditions. It flowers early in the garden, receiving sun before the trees have leafed out fully and is protected from heat later in the season. They are very long-lived, but slow to become established. Don’t give up on them if it takes a few years for them to get going — it’s well worth the wait.
- The last time you mow your lawn for the season, cut it to 2 inches to reduce the chance of snow mold next spring. Mice and voles will also damage turf and nearby trees and shrubs if they have long grass for food and cover.
- Keep watering shrubs and trees, especially evergreens, until the ground freezes or you have to shut off outdoor spigots. The longer you water, the more hydrated your plants will be when they move into dormancy.
- Chop up fallen leaves with your lawn mower and mulch your garden beds with them.
- Don’t cut down all of your dead or dormant perennials. Plants such as coneflowers, coreopsis and rudbeckia serve as seed sources for birds that winter in Minnesota. If you cut down plants, leave the stems standing for stem-nesting bees.
- Drain water from hoses and coil them loosely on the floor so they don’t kink and crack. Shut off hose faucets before freezing temperatures arrive.
- Spread straw or leaves over newly planted bulbs, marginally hardy (zone 4) perennials, and strawberries by mid-November, even if the soil hasn’t frozen yet (ideally it is best to wait until it freezes.) The purpose of winter mulch is to insulate plant roots from fluctuating soil temperatures and keep them dormant during early spring warm-ups.
- When purchasing potted chrysanthemums for autumn decorating, choose plants with some buds just opening, rather than in full bloom in order to have a longer bloom time. Once the flowers fade, discard the plants because most florist mums are not hardy in our area and won’t survive in Minnesota gardens.
- Protect new and thin-barked trees by surrounding each trunk with a four-foot-high metal hardware cloth cylinder. Sink it 2 to 3 inches into the ground and about 6 inches away from the trunk. Plastic tree guards are also effective on young trees. Tree wrap is less effective and must be removed promptly in the spring so it doesn’t trap moisture against the trunk.
- Spray deer repellent on trees and shrubs (especially those favored by deer such as arborvitae, burning bush and fruit trees) before feeding begins.
- Get your houseplants in good shape for winter by cleaning the undersides and tops of leaves and stems to ensure there are no spider mite or insect eggs lurking about. In addition, cleaning the leaves maximizes the potential for light exposure, and thus photosynthesis. Don’t use leaf shine products because they attract dust, give the leaves an unnatural appearance, and clog pores.
- Store liquid chemicals and fertilizers out of the light and in a frost-free location. Granular products need to be kept dry. Seal bags of fertilizer and move them off the garage floor onto a shelf where they won’t get damp and hard over the winter.
- Clean and sharpen your garden tools, then wipe them with a light coating of oil to prevent rust.
- Add long-lasting color to your home with easy to grow, flowering plants such as kalanchoe, begonia, phalaenopsis orchid, or African violet.
- Create a Thanksgiving centerpiece by gathering seasonal produce. Gourds, squash, miniature pumpkins and ears of popcorn, and walnuts in the shell look beautiful when arranged in a basket or wooden tray. Add some backyard finds — sprigs of bittersweet, branches from shrubs and trees (especially those with berries or interesting seed heads) and dried grasses, wildflowers and even weeds.
- Help reduce the spread of buckthorn by removing it from your property. Buckthorn is easy to identify in late autumn when most other shrubs have lost their leaves. Buckthorn has green leaves and small clusters of black berries with sharp barbs sparsely spaced. If possible, dig it out. If the plant is large, the DNR recommends cutting the trunk to the ground, then painting the stump (within two hours of cutting) with an herbicide containing triclopyr or glyphosate to prevent re-sprouting. Always follow the instructions on the label for herbicides.
- You can dormant seed your lawn in mid-November. The premise is that the seed will remain dormant due to the cold soil conditions, but begin to germinate as soon as the soils start to warm in the spring. This avoids having to prepare the soil when it is still wet and cold in the spring and gives your lawn a head-start of several weeks. Dormant seeding works best when you want to reseed bare soil areas or help thicken up thin lawns.
- Bring your amaryllis bulbs out of the dark and place them in a bright window. Cut off dead foliage and water regularly. Flowers typically develop in four to six weeks.
- Crow Wing County Master Gardeners and the Brainerd Public Library are hosting a free Zoom webinar about jumping worms. Register at the krls.org (Brainerd Public Library) website. It will be at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Learn more about this emerging invasive pest, how to recognize it, the effect it has on soil, and how to stop the spread. This webinar is led by Professor Lee Frelich from The University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology.
You may get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer you in the column if space allows.
University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.