Chesterton Tribune

October brings an answer and weather extremes for gardener

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Of Wonders and Weeds


October is for .... a long-awaited answer.

For six months I’ve been waiting for Bill Mangold, an archeologist with the State of Indiana, to come speak at the Dunes State Park. This story really starts last November.

Bundled in my usual assortment of ugly gardening clothes, I was digging on the east side of the house. I thrust my favorite contractor-grade shovel (which should have broken long ago the way I abuse it) into the dirt and heard a clink.

Living in a farmhouse, I have found numerous trinkets and broken dishes while gardening in the yard. Also, old brick foundations and huge chunks of buried concrete. I never can assume something is just a rock or an odd piece of metal.

The clink turned out to be what I thought was an arrowhead, 2 3/4 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide at its notched base. Roughly chiseled, it’s flat on one side and rounded on the other. The stone is medium grey and slightly shiny.

A trip to the Westchester Township Museum led me to believe the arrowhead was from about 1300 A.D. Local amateur archeologist Bud Johnson said he thought it was much older, and that the grey quartz stone or chert was not local. Mangold said it appears to be Upper Mercer chert from Ohio, and my find is a spear point (arrows hadn’t been invented yet) which could be from about 4,000 to 6,000 B.C.

The first question several people asked me was, how much is it worth? I never thought to ask Mangold, but projectile points are fairly common so I would guess not much. I don’t know what to do with it. I’m certainly not going to make a necklace out of it, and what’s the point of letting it sit in a safety deposit box? Maybe I’ll let the museum display it if they want.

Much of the area where I found the projectile point is bare and needs to be planted. It’s also where the ground bees took up residence this summer. A good late-night soaking of a diluted solution of termite and carpenter ant killer got rid of the bees, but I want to let the site overwinter before I start digging there again. Who knows what I’ll find when I do?

Ron Day said he can remember when it once snowed in late September. October, 1996-97-98 all started out warm but in 2000, October temperatures were more like late November. The point? For every lovely day we have now, a nasty one can be waiting just around the corner. Because of this, we need to prioritize our remaining garden projects.

Many gardeners are busy deadheading spent bloom stalks and trimming down stressed plants, especially those dead or diseased. Just because it looks awful now doesn’t mean it won’t be a star next year. Experts recommend that if cutting a plant that looks sickly, wash your clippers well or dip them in a diluted bleach solution when you’re done so you don’t transfer the problem to another plant.

Having said that, I don’t do it, even though I know I should. Would my roses and phlox be less disease free? Probably. There, I’ve come clean: I am not a perfect gardener. Far from it.

Early fall is a good time for planting and transplanting many things; the ground is warm, the sun less intense and rain usually plentiful.

I have some larger shrubs I need to move. Professionals recommend generously mulching new plantings after the ground freezes but not mounding the mulch around the bark or base of a tree or shrub. And it’s always better to plant too high in the hole than too deep.

I learned a valuable lesson recently. I couldn’t understand why we were overrun with tiny ground squirrels or chipmunks this year until someone at a local garden center asked if I had added bone meal to the soil when I planted a record number of tulips last fall. Apparently, bone meal is a chipmunk magnet. The clerk recommended using a Dutch bulb fertilizer instead.

With so many garden centers now having great sales to reduce their inventory, it’s hard not to bring something home. I finally found the lespedeza thunbergii or bushclover I’ve been looking for. Anyone who’s seen the large yet delicate shrub-like perennial, which grows on new wood like a butterfly bush, on Chesterton Feed and Garden’s south fence in full September bloom will know why.

Barbara Barg last month brought a huge mixed fall bouquet to the Duneland Garden Club meeting with long, arching branches of rosy-purple bushclover in it. Barbara did what I am too timid to do: cut really long flowering branches and stems for big, impressive arrangements that grab your attention and don’t get lost among the platters of brownies, cheese and fruit.

‘Panama Hattie,’ a lovely shaded apricot daylily with coral watermark or halo around the throat is reblooming. ‘Forever Island,’ which was planted in late June but not yet flowered, is all budded up. I will protect this from frost at all costs to see the cream petals outlined in violet with an etched bluish lavender eyezone for the first time.

Despite the shortage of rain, don’t the hardy chrysanthemums look wonderful this year?

According to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials, these members of the daisy family first hybridized by the Chinese have been wildly popular for nearly 2,500 years. Some mums are so top-heavy with flowers I’ve let them grow through small plant-support rings --- a grid of sturdy metal supported by stakes --- to keep them upright. An enemy of healthy mums is wet feet in winter.

Another winner are the Japanese or hybrida anemones, often thought of as an under-used backbone of the fall garden. Anemones are known as windflowers because the flower clusters are borne atop tall wiry stems that sway in the slightest breeze. I have several varieties of pink and a white anemone, but Andre’ Viette advertises ‘Kriemhilde,’ a 26-inch unusual salmon shade I want to try.

Anemones like part-shade but can take full sun; they will spread but the babies either can be pulled out and composted, given away or potted up to move elsewhere.

With many of my best hostas half their size or all but disappeared this year in the drought, the striking gold-leaf ‘Zounds’ really stands out for its vigor. A mature plant will grow about 20 inches high and 40 inches wide. The leaves are cupped, puckered, have good slug resistance and can take a bit more sun.

Another good performer, this one gold with hints of lime/chartreuse, is ‘Kiwi Gold Rush.’ Not commonly found (I can’t remember how I got it), a picture is available at The healthy medium clump is eye-catching and never wavered in the heat.

The 2003 Hosta of the Year will be ‘Regal Splendor,’ a sport or mutation of ‘Krossa Regal’ having the same vase shape and blue/green leaves but yellow-cream margins.

I find this choice odd because the 2000 Hosta of the Year was ‘Sagae,’ a vase-shaped plant with blue/green leaves and wavy yellow margins. ‘Sagae’ is lovely, and I haven’t seen ‘Regal Splendor,’ but aren’t there enough unusual hostas out of 2,000 around that they have to pick two that look alike?

Four Seasons Landscaping Nursery has a nifty email newsletter we can sign up to receive. This month’s edition talks about tree wrap, fertilization, bulb info and lawn care.

Hostaphiles can register now for the 2003 Midwest Regional Hosta Society Winter Scientific Meeting Jan. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield in Schaumburg, Ill. Prominent hybridizer Mary Chastain who developed the popular Lakeside series of hostas will be among the speakers.

Seminar participants begin arriving Jan. 17 for a stop in the hospitality suite. Cost for the day-long Saturday program is $40; sign-up after Jan. 6 is $50. Cost includes continental breakfast and a wonderful deli buffet lunch. The Hyatt has reserved a block of rooms at $84 per night if registering before Jan. 6. For more information, contact Morgan Wilson in LaSalle, Ill. at 815-224-1383.

The Hyatt is very near some of the best shopping venues in Illinois including The Great Indoors and Ikea as well as Woodfield Mall. Don’t even get me started on the restaurants.

Anyone needing to tie up or off something for the winter, one of the best things I’ve found are strips of women’s opaque tights. Strong yet stretchy, they hold but give enough so the bark or plant isn’t damaged.

They also can be cut as wide or as narrow as you need, or in a spiral for long pieces.

I used them to gently tie a bamboo stake to the top of the tri-color beech where it had formed an S shape, hoping to straighten the tree’s trunk over time.

Local master gardener Elta Cloud said she found a cucumber in her garden that was 12 inches long, 9 inches in diameter and weighing about 2 pounds. She credits the cucumber’s size to her soil.

“Mom always said amend your soil as much as you can to produce good vegetables and to nurture them through a drought,” explains Elta, who amends her own lush food and flower gardens with compost and shredded leaves and usually has three compost piles in different stages of decomposition going at one time.

Elta also fills one-third of a 10-gallon garbage can with compost, then fills the rest of the can with water. She lets this steep in the sun, then pours off the “compost tea” to water poppies and peonies.

Elta’s mother helped feed their neighbors during the Depression because her own garden was so bountiful.

“There’s a saying in West Virginia that the mountains are so high because people are always building up their soil.”


Posted 10/7/2002