- [Narrator] Staghorn ferns are epiphytes, and can thrive without soil. A common way to grow these impressive plants is mounting them to a wood plank. Sheri Gramer walks us through the process. Flowers of Hellebores are a welcome sight when they bloom in late winter to early spring. Marty DeHart shares the optimum growing conditions for these beauties. And Jeff Poppen discusses how to incorporate green cover crops for soil health. Stay tuned. Once an uncommon plant find, Staghorn ferns are now widely available and incredibly popular. - [Sheri] Mounting plants, it's kind of fun to do. Hey, Lindsey. - [Lindsey] Hi, how are you? - Good, I wanna know all about mounting a Staghorn. I love Staghorns. I have several in big baskets at home, but I don't know about mounting one. So can you explain it to us? - Mounting is super fun, super easy, it's a great way to bring the outdoors into your home. They're great on the porch in the summertime, not full sun, under a covered porch, and then they look really, really cool on your wall. Staghorns are what we're going to mount today, but you can mount anything from an orchid, to a pothos, to any other type of fern. - [Sheri] All, right, let's get going here. - So we have our Staghorn, and some fishing line, and Sphagnum Moss. - [Sheri] You've soaked that already? It looks like it's wet. - Yeah, you buy it dried and then you soak it either overnight or for a couple of hours. That way it's got the moisture. To start with, you can mount on cedar boards, any type of boards. I've just got some wood that I've had cut specific, 'cause I love the way it looks against the wall. So you're going to take some big poultry staples, and you're going to basically create a spot where you're going to attach. - [Sheri] Where would you get these? - The poultry staples you can find at any like TSC, Home Depot, Lowe's, any like hardware store. I find that the tractor supply or the TSC typically has the nicer looking ones, which are the bigger ones. They kind of make a statement. - And so what determines how many staples you put in here? - Just as how big the plant is and how many times 'cause essentially we're going to, in a second, we're gonna take the plant out of the pot, wrap it in Sphagnum moss, and lay it, and we're going to weave it onto the board. So if you want to see more weaves, you do more staples. If not, I've kind of gotten it down to an art where I don't need to have as many staples. So when you take the plant out of the pot, I do not suggest losing any of the soil. You wanna keep as much of the soil, therefore it keeps more of the moisture. - [Sheri] And the roots are happy if you don't disturb them. - Yes. Yes. So then you're just going to throw some Sphagnum Moss around it like so. - [Sheri] And Sphagnum Moss you get at Home Depot, Lowe's. - Yes. - It's out in the gardens department, right? - Yeah, it's in a bag and it's dried so it's not wet. So therefore, you would just soak it. As you mount it, we're gonna always gonna add more when you see the soil. So we're gonna take it and plop it on here. - [Sheri] Kind of squishing it down a little too. - [Lindsey] Yeah. Yep. - [Sheri] Compressing the moss on it. - [Lindsey] Yes. - [Sheri] Okay. - And you create a ball, and then I use 25 pound fishing line. I've seen it done with other types of twine. My trick is to do the fishing line so therefore, it doesn't rot out. And sometimes if you wanted more of a decorative look, you could take the twine and go on top of it. So you're just going to tie off couple knots just like you're tying a fishing hook. I learned that from my dad. And pull it tight, and you're gonna find the end. - Got it. - And you're literally just going to weave this pretty plant onto the board. - So when it's time to water this, I'm guessing with a Staghorn perhaps once a week. - Yes, yes, once a week you take the board directly to the sink and give it a good soak. - The board and everything? - The board and everything. You can't hurt it. Just make sure as you're doing it, you're pulling it super tight. So essentially this is a baby Staghorn. As it mature, it will get fronds, with almost I call them in the store scabs, and they'll be bright green. And they will cover the entire plant and board and when that happens, that's when you know that you need to repot 'cause it's running out of space. - [Sheri] So are those always green or do they turn brown eventually? - [Lindsey] They're bright green to start with, actually a beautiful color, and then they turn brown and get kind of I would say hard and crunchy. - [Sheri] Brittle. - [Lindsey] Yeah, and some people think that it's something wrong with the plant and they'll like- - [Sheri] Don't pick it off. - [Lindsey] Don't peel it off because that's what's protecting the soil and creating its base to grow in. So just like you started with the front, you're gonna tie it off in the end and there you have it. - [Sheri] Well, that was easy enough. I think I'm gonna try that. Thank you, Lindsey. - [Lindsey] No problem. They're super fun to see in the homes. - Once we realize the valuable benefits of a green manure cover crop, we start growing them and they grow great, and by spring, you have this beautiful cover crop. But the big question is, how do we get rid of it and turn it back into our vegetable or fruit or flower garden? In a small backyard garden situation, maybe a raised bed or something, you might simply just pull up the plants, shake off the dirt as much as you can. And what you have left in your hand then is a valuable addition to your compost pile. You could even use it as a mulch. It's not gonna sprout back very bad once you shake the dirt off. And while you're shaking that dirt off, you'll notice what beautiful quality it is. Yeah, so that's a good way to do it because at that point, you can just plant that same day right in your garden. So another way to to change over the crop is to lay it down, with mowing it like a little scythe or something. You could just roll it or crimp it, and your green manure cover crop then can act as a mulch. You then pull it to the side, dig a hole, and plant your tomatoes or peppers or whatever kind of plants you want in a plant, and just leave it on as a mulch. One of the problems with this method though, is that we have to remember that a mulch protects the soil from the sun. So if we're growing a cool weather crop, say lettuces, a mulch in the spring is a good idea. But if we're growing tomatoes or peppers, we'll have to pull the mulch back and let that soil warm up because the mulch will keep the soil cool, and tomatoes and peppers wouldn't like that. The way that I incorporate the green manure cover crop takes time, maybe two or even three weeks. We mow the field really well, maybe even twice. Sometimes I'll mow the green manure crop before it gets as tall just to keep it in a leaf stage. The stalks are what take a long time to decompose. After I mow it, I run a chisel plow through the field, and this would be like using a garden fork in your garden. And then I do something that's one of the hardest things for a gardener to do, and that is nothing. I simply have to wait. And so then after a few days, maybe a rain, maybe a week, I'll go through the field again, and this time, everything breaks up a lot better than it did the first path. In another week or so, I'll go through a third time, which is usually the last path, and everything busts up really nicely and the ground is ready to plant the summer garden. So what I'm doing here is I'm getting soil microbes to do the work for me just as I use the green manure cover crop to work for me. The cover crop loosens the soil with those big root systems, and gets the soil in pretty good shape. But there's a lot of microbes growing on that cover crop, you know, in an organic situation. And when I mow it, the food for those microbes, their food source is gone. Their plants are no longer putting out root exudates to feed the soil bacteria and fungi. Then when I take the cultivator through it, my goodness gracious, it all gets busted up, and the soil microbes are further diminished. But that's only the winter crop microbes. What happens is the summer crop loving microbes kinda wake up in spring as the ground gets warmer, and they go like this, wow, there's more elbow room now all these other winter microbes aren't around, and they start proliferating. And over this two week period, there's like a battle going on underground, but the winter microbes don't have a chance, and the summer microbes then help to break down this cover crop and turn it into really good soil. A popular gardening method now is called no till gardening or farming. And in this case, we try not to till the soil, but we simply crimp it or roll it with a machine called a crimp or a roller, and then we use a seed drill to drill in the next crop. And this minimizes soil tillage, which can be detrimental to our beneficial microbes, but it does require an investment in these pieces of equipment which I don't have so I kinda do it the old fashioned way. We don't grow green manure cover crops on fields that we want to plant early in the spring. It would interfere with the ground warming up and getting the land ready for the early crops such as peas, and onions, and potatoes, carrots, and beets, and lettuce, and things that we want to get planted in late March or or April. This field has had potatoes and corn in it before, but I wanted to turn it into a more permanent green manure crop. So this time, we use grass and perennial clovers. So this is some white dutch clover, there's probably some red clover in here, fescue, and these things then you put as your green manure crop if you don't want to use the land for a few years. When we fall plow or dig up our soils, we leave it in these clods, which then in the fall fill up with rain water. And in the winter, that water freezes and expands and poofs out the soil and pulverizes it way better than any kind of mechanical tillage can do, and this is a great way to have the ground ready in the spring, especially for those early crops like potatoes. Unless you're doing an early garden, it's always a good idea to tuck your garden beds away in the winter under a nice cozy cover crop. - The glory of Hellebores. It's early spring west of Nashville. We are gonna talk today about how to grow 'em and what you can expect. So I'm with Joe Woodard, who is a world renowned hellebore breeder, and this is his place. It's a wonderful place full of chock-a-block full of blooming Hellebores. Joe, thank you so much for having us. - Thanks for coming. - And I wanna pick your brains because everybody, Hellebores are widely available now and I want people to be successful with them. So let's first talk about how to grow 'em. I mean, what are they like? - They're really adaptable first of all, but they like what most plants would like, and where we're standing is perfect growing conditions. I think this is kind of a loamy raised bed type situation. There's dirt, there's compost, there's a little coarse sand in there, and then also where we're standing, it gets morning sun into early afternoon, and then overhead the trees shade it in mid-afternoon. So they can take full sun. The leaves might look a little bad, but they'll bloom like crazy. They can take some deciduous shade, but they prefer a mix of both. - Okay, okay, so some sun, some shade. The only place you wouldn't put 'em is like deep under a pine tree or something. - Exactly, yeah. And no swamps, and no deserts. - Yeah, in other words, what I'm hearing is they like good drainage. - They do like good drainage, especially when it's wet. - Yes, okay so which, and our winters tend to be wet. - [Joe] Exactly. - [Marty] So and our soils tend to be heavy here in Middle Tennessee. Not so much in west Tennessee, but they do well all over the state of Tennessee. - [Joe] They do. - Yeah, so in other words, fairly rich soil, do you feed them much? - I don't, I just in the beds I'll amend them, you know, occasionally, but mostly up front I try to make a really good dirt. - Okay, put 'em in good soil and then you don't have to throw a lot of fertilizer on 'em all the time. - You would water them after you've transplanted them, and maybe some in the first year. After that, nature pretty much takes care of it. - My experience with them, and I'd love to hear if you would confirm this, is that when they're established, which can take a year or two, but once they've been in the ground for a while, they're pretty much bulletproof in terms of drought tolerance. I mean, it would take a massive drought to actually take 'em out. - [Joe] Absolutely. In mid-summer when we have maybe August that's really dry, the leaves might kind of droop, but the plants are okay. - [Marty] Yeah, okay, so that's good news. So fairly dry deciduous shade. As long as the soil is okay and you get 'em established. I mean, that's good news. Now the other thing I want, if people don't know, let's talk about what eats them. - [Joe] The only thing that I know that eats them are little insects like grasshoppers and things like that will chew on the leaves. So, you know, by late fall sometimes you'll see some holes or something like that. But deer certainly don't eat them. - [Marty] Yeah, deer avoid them as a matter of fact. - [Joe] Absolutely. - So that's great news. As a matter of fact, I have planted them around things because deer avoid them so much. I put them around azaleas, which deer will browse crazily and the deer have quit hurting the azaleas with the Hellebores around them. And Hellebores are rabbit resistant too, and that's because they are highly toxic plants. The animals are able to sense this toxicity and avoid it. I've never seen anything, any animal, other than a little baby insect maybe, eat a Hellebore, and it's because they're so toxic. - [Joe] Exactly. - [Marty] And Joe, in my experience, Hellebores really don't require a whole lot of care over the course of a year. The only time their foliage really starts to look tatty and you might want to cut it off, is at the very beginning of the growing season when the new stuff is starting to push out already, and the old stuff is sort of laying there looking sad. It's fine to cut it off, get rid of it, and the plants look great instantly because the new growth is coming on. - [Joe] Exactly. - Now Joe, I know that you grow the kind of Hellebores that are fertile, and throw seeds all over the place, and modern breeders such as yourself have done a lot of work with Hellebores. You've been working with these fertile X hybridus Lenten-rose sorts that throw lots of seed, but other breeders have bred Hellebore across so many species that they no longer are fertile. And a lot of what people buy now, what's available in garden centers are these really beautiful varieties, but they won't get the babies off of them. The plants will get bigger, grow into bigger and bigger clumps, but they won't throw little babies from seed around them like old-fashioned Hellebores do regular Lenten-roses. And there are some beautiful varieties out there. Pink frost, and Merlin, these are two names that are commonly available. These are all of what we call Lenten-rose, but they are no longer fertile. And it's important when people are shopping that they understand that they're not gonna get the babies from those sorts. Well thank you so much Joe, for telling us what we need to know about how to grow these. And gorgeous colors you can get enjoy in your garden just about any hue that you desire. So thanks so much. Appreciate it. - [Joe] Thank you. - I feel like I'm on top of the world this morning. Marilyn Sutcliffe, thank you for allowing us to come and see what I call the best parts of the world of hillside gardening and shade. I would like for you to tell us how you began this garden. - Well, we moved here in October of 1991, and there really was nothing except a few day lilies and four black walnut trees over there behind the house, and a lot of poison ivy, and I sort of started in a small way with pieces of ivy there and a little here and a little there, and then it just evolved. - [Annette] You have a magnificent ground cover right here. You say this is evergreen. - [Marilyn] That's an evergreen, the genus name is Sarcococca, it's readily available in most of the major garden centers on Bates and and Moore & Moore. And it blooms, it does very well, it's evergreen, and it's really a wonderful ground cover shade. - [Annette] Shade. - [Marilyn] Yeah, shade too. I put it there especially to stop the erosion. Being on the hillside, I've had a lot of erosion problems so most of the garden has been designed, has been built to stop the erosion. - [Annette] And here in front, I know that this is a Yew? - [Marilyn] Plum Yew, the Spreading Plum Yew is what it's called. - [Annette] And it is a ground cover, and most of all it likes shade. - [Marilyn] Yeah, it'll take shade and it'll take sun 'cause I have some over there in the sun. That's a Cooba, and there are several varieties now. That is the plain, there's no yellow on it. That's gold dust behind you, and these are a couple of newer varieties that have more gold in them. - [Annette] Let's talk about the necessity of your design elements here for erosion. - I picked the plants that I liked and I placed them, for example, I had to have this path because I have a motorized wheelbarrow. So this is why this area's flat, and this little slope has been a problem both because of the erosion and always having to replace the mulch. So the groupings of the plants here, I'm filling it in with ground covers, and this particular plant is a Japanese Sedge, and that's doing really well. - [Annette] Is this evergreen? - [Marilyn] That's evergreen, yes, that's evergreen. That's fairly evergreen. Mostly I just picked out what I liked, and had to pay attention to the conditions, the sun, and be careful about I can't have anything too tall because of the hill. It all leans forward and falls over. I didn't wanna have to support everything. So it's mainly been focusing on shorter plants, ground cover types, and where I could find a flat place, you know, I would put in something that was a little bit taller. The shrubs are okay like that, and that Sea Oats has worked out there, but you see I had to make a little level place with rocks. - [Annette] Well, that's the joy of gardening though. I see a mass of plant material down this hill. What all have you used? That's just beautiful. - [Marilyn] It originally began with a few pieces of Ajuga, and once I got the irrigation system in, the Ajuga loved the water and it just spreads and spreads and spreads, and I have to periodically have to dig it up and treat it as a weed in some areas when it tries to cover the rocks. But in the springtime, it's simply magnificent with the little purple booms, and the bees love it. - [Annette] You know, this whole slope just your eye takes you all the way down and even across the road on the other side where you see that beautiful pond. This is magazine setting is what I'd say. - [Marilyn] Well, it's amazing because it all just evolved little by little. It wasn't planned, I didn't have a designer, I just put in things that I liked and not everything works. So some of, you know, I've had to replace quite a few things here and there. - Marilyn, let me check your legs. I believe you got one leg shorter than the other. - Well, not really. It just looks that way 'cause we're standing on the hill. - This is such a vast area, and lots of different plant material. Tell me, how do you buy, what do you do to get all this? - [Marilyn] Yeah, I have a combination of perennials and annuals. The annuals, some of the ones I like so much that I have every year. The perennials, some work out and some don't. So if I see something, something doesn't work out, I'll replace it with something else. - [Annette] I see that you have those annuals that like to recede, and that's a benefit. - I have, I have several that recede. In fact, in some cases, those perennials are a problem because I have to deadhead them before they recede, or I spend an awful lot of time pulling up the babies that aren't growing where they aren't supposed to. An example of that is the Helleborus. With this Lady in Red Salvia, I've ended up pulling up some of that as weeds. - [Annette] And your collection of Coleus, you saved those over? - [Marilyn] Yeah, the Coleus I'll file. I really like a particular colors, I'll root them, take a cutting, and root it and save it over the winter, pot it, and keep it in my underground room with grow lights, and grow it over the winter and so I can plant it again the next spring. That doesn't always work about, but sometimes it does. But mostly I just frequent the nurseries, all the different nurseries, and see if I see something I like. And if I really love it, I'll find a place for it whether it's a perennial or an annual. - [Annette] In the perennial family you have this black and blue salvia. - It's a lovely plant. The hummingbirds love it. The flowers are kind of small in relation to the foliage. It's a little bit too much for this particular space, and I have to keep it cut back. But it is a beautiful color and it's as I said, the hummingbirds like it and I love the hummingbirds. I have hummingbird feeders, and so I feed the birds and I love the wildlife. - [Annette] I'm standing in one of my favorite perennials. This is another good ground cover. This one is- - [Marilyn] Plumbago. Yeah, the Plumbago. - [Annette] And that wonderful cobalt blue. - [Marilyn] It's a cobalt blue, and blue is a difficult color. Not an awful lot of plants come in that color. - [Annette] Now all of these plants, Marilyn, you have to have your most loved plant. Which is it? - [Marilyn] Well I'm not sure, but I think it must be that Robinhood Azalea, and the name of it is a Hilda Niblett, and I got it as a small plant from Wayside Gardens in South Carolina. And the reason it's so beautiful, it's a late bloomer, the blooms are huge and they're different colors. They're peach and white, and it's absolutely magnificent. I couldn't have done this without something called a power wagon. It's a DR power wagon made by Country Home products in Vermont. And I found it early on in my gardening career, and that's the only way I could get all these rocks, all the mulch, the dirt up the hill was using my power wagon. So really it all depended on it, depends on my power wagon. - [Annette] Now then, I know that being able to see our gardens from inside the home is a really wonderful thing. Tell me about what you see. What's your vantage point from inside your home? - [Marilyn] Well, mostly in the cooler weather when I can't sit outside on the patio, I sit and do a lot of studying and reading on my dining room looking out in the windows in this section of the garden, which is probably why I have so many colorful annuals here 'cause they bloom all summer and I always, half the time I look out thinking, oh, I should do this and I need to do that, and what do I do next? And then I have to stop myself and just sit back and just enjoy the gorgeous, gorgeous beauty of the flowers, and just be grateful that I was able to do all this. - [Annette] Well, it's obvious that you have accomplished much here, and I'm in awe at what you've done and the beauty of it, and we thank you for allowing us to come and walk along your garden paths. - [Marilyn] Oh, thank you. It was my pleasure. - [Narrator] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips, and garden projects, visit our website at volunteergardener.org. Or on YouTube at the Volunteer Gardener channel, and like us on Facebook.
April 20, 2023
Season 31 | Episode 15
A common way to grow a staghorn fern is mounted onto a board. Sheri Gramer walks us through the process. Marty DeHart shares the optimum growing conditions for hellebores and discusses their attributes. Jeff Poppen discuses a few ways to use green manure crops once they've reached maturity in the garden. Annette Shrader tours a home ornamental garden that was created on a backyard slope.
Watch Clips from this Episode
Hellebores: Culture and Attributes
Hellebores are a hardy perennial that is a star during late-winter and early spring. Thanks to hybridization, they come in a dazzling array of bloom varieties. Marty DeHart visits with hybridizer Joe Woodard to discuss the attributes and culture of this popular plant.
Staghorn Fern – How to Mount
The staghorn fern can be grown as a houseplant, or outdoors in areas with a milder climate. Commonly, the fern is attached to a wooden surface to mimic how they grow in nature. Sheri Gramer walks us through the process of securely attaching a fern to a wooden board for good plant health, and an amazing display.
How to Use Green Manures
Jeff Poppen knows the valuable benefits of cover crops, also known as green manure. When used in a home garden, he advises to pull up the plants at maturity, shake off the valuable soil, and then enrich the compost pile with the plants. For a farm field of cover crops, he mows the field several times over a 2 week span, and chisel plows all the plant material into the soil. Then the microbes do their good work.