4 Ways To Honor Grandparents

As summer comes to a close, and September arrives, it’s almost time to remember how truly special our grandparents are. The second Sunday after Labor Day in September is Grandparents Day. Since 1979, we’ve been honoring the love and devotion of the special people in our lives. With our professional delivery services, VanderSalm’s Flowershop & Garden Center can make sure your grandparents in a hospital room, nursing home or assisted living facility anywhere in the greater Kalamazoo area are well taken care of. And, of course, we also deliver to residences as well. The experts at VanderSalm’s Flowershop & Garden Center have created a list of four ways to honor grandparents.

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What To Include In Back-To-School Care Packages

As college students return to campus in the fall, we want to help you send them on their way successfully. Sometimes students don’t realize what they need until they get back to school. With a little help from the designers at VanderSalm’s Flowershop & Garden Center, you can send a great back-to-school gift care package that includes fun practical, items for your student.

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Celebrate Summer and 4th of July

With the start of the summer season, there are so many ways to celebrate the warm days! 4th of July brings friends, family, fireworks and fun! The symbolic colors of red, white and blue are familiar at this time of year. We also love bright flowers and cool green plants that offer the ability to add color to our outdoor spaces. The 4th of July holiday is a great time to spruce up the backyard, deck or patio for the summer festivities. Let VanderSalm’s Flowershop & Garden Center be your go to place for all your gardening and decorating needs. 

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Add Vibrance and Color With Summer Plants

The arrival of June signals that summer is here. The sights, sounds and scents of nature invite us to linger outdoors. With the start of summer, many people would like to bring the amazing sights and floral scents of the season into their indoor worlds. Fresh plants and flowers can make any part of your home feel like summer! From your front porch to your dining room table, a colorful bouquet just reminds us of the promise of long summer days and warm summer breezes. Let the plant and flower experts at VanderSalm’s Flowershop & Garden Center showcase some of our favorite indoor and outdoor summer designs. 

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Mom’s Favorite Blooms for Mother’s Day

It’s almost time to celebrate some of the most special people in the world. Mother’s Day is right around the corner and this is a fabulous time to express your joy and gratitude for all of the ways your mom has always dedicated herself to you. Honor moms with a beautiful bouquet of her favorite flowers or original blooms in her favorite colors. The floral experts at VanderSalm’s Flowershop & Garden Center are creating some amazing floral designs specifically for mothers on Mother’s Day this year. Take a look at all of our excellent choices and find something perfect for your mom this year.

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A Gardener’s To-Do List For October

A Gardener’s To-Do List For October

A Gardener’s To-Do List For October

A Gardener’s To-Do List For October: October is harvest season: Apples, carrots, tomatoes and a whole host of other – equally important – fruit & veg ripens around now, so those of us with a vegetable garden will be rushed off our feet for the next few weeks!

Not that people without a vegetable plot have an easy time this month. With winter frosts fast approaching, October is your last real chance to divide up overgrown perennials, harvest seed heads and prepare your garden for the cold months ahead.

As such, you’ll probably spend a considerable amount of time clearing, pruning, planting and potting; regardless of your garden’s size or contents.

October is also a great time to sit back and take stock of your space. With the trees bare and borders empty, it’s much easier to get a real look at your garden’s structure, composition, and layout, which is why we often find ourselves using the last weeks of fall to make note of any changes we’d like to implement next spring.

This could be small things – like a new color scheme – or larger tasks, like repositioning a border or replanting a neglected space down at the end of your plot. Ultimately, the important thing is to take a step back and think about what you’d like to do differently next year.

It’s not all clean-up and reflection though: There’s also plenty to plant in October, and a few miscellaneous tasks – like repainting garden furniture – that are often neglected in the pre-winter rush.

To help you make the most of this busy month, we’ve pulled together a list of essential gardening tasks, as follows:

1. Divide perennials

Perennial plants like hostas, daylilies or yarrow have a habit of taking over borders, particularly if they’ve been allowed to grow unchecked for a couple of years.

You can’t divide these plants in the middle of summer, because they’re spending too much energy on new growth to recover properly. Fall is a different matter entirely though: At this time of year, delicate perennials concentrate spare resource in the frost-proof roots, and focus on building a strong safety net that will support them until spring.

This means that you can safely dig up (and divide) crowded perennials in October. To do this, pick a plant and lift it from the soil with a trowel or garden fork, taking care not to damage too much of the plant’s root network.

Once you’ve lifted your perennial from the soil, you can then tease the roots apart, forming two separate plants. Some perennials (including hostas) tend to develop quite thick root networks so you may need to use a bit of force, but many will just break apart in your hands, which makes it nice and easy to divide them.

Try to aim for equal division (i.e. splitting the plant in half) as this maximizes the chances of survival.

Once you’ve broken your plant in two, you can replant one half, and then find a suitable spot for the rest. Take care to cover newly-planted perennials with a little leaf mulch too, just to make sure they’re well-protected against early frosts.

2. Harvest seed heads

Alliums, poppies and a number of different wildflowers all disperse their seeds in October. If you want to enjoy these flowers again next year, now is the perfect time to get out there, and gather their seed heads.

These seed heads (literally, the part of the plant that’s covered in seeds) can be teased away from the stem and stored in a brown paper bag. If you keep this bag warm and dry until next year, you’ll be able to plant the seeds in spring, and then watch a new generation of flowers spring up from the ground.

Take care when gathering seed heads though: Some have a tendency to explode if their over-handled, and it’s important to be as gentle as you can with any ripe seeds.

3. Harvest vegetables

As mentioned before, October is harvest season, and those of us with a vegetable plot are likely to be inundated with fresh vegetables. Particular highlights include late-fruiting apples, root vegetables like carrots, broccoli, sprouts, and collard greens.

Beans need to be harvested in October too – particularly green, broad or runner varieties – as frost will ruin their flavor.

The same is also true of beets, cabbages, lettuces and that old seasonal favorite: The pumpkin, which will be at its ripest in the middle of October.

4. Dig out the last of the summer annuals

Speaking of removing things before they decline, there’s a good chance that most of your summer annuals are dead by now. There is a slight environmental benefit to leaving some of the wilted stalks sitting in your borders; they provide a habitat for small creatures and a unique biome for insect life, but they are also unsightly, and October’s the perfect time to swing around, and dig most of them up.

This will leave your borders bare for leaf mulch, or provide you with space to plant some late blooming alternatives. The chrysanthemum is a great example, but you could also plant out

5. Bring potted plants indoors

Temperatures start to drop rapidly as we move into fall, particularly here in Michigan. Plants in borders have a bit of added protection against frost and snow, but plants in pots are very vulnerable to sudden cold snaps.

As such, it is highly recommended that you bring citrus plants, olive trees or potted, outdoor plants indoors at this time of year. For best results, leave them by a window or door to make sure that they get enough sunlight, and water them occasionally throughout the winter.

Do take care to ensure that they are well drained though. There’s much less chance of water evaporating when plants are kept indoors, and it is easy to accidentally waterlog plants that normally live outside.

6. Paint outdoor furniture

Last but not least, October is the perfect time to repaint worn garden furniture. Regular weatherproofing extends the lifespan of all wooden furniture, and it’s important to get a fresh coat down every year – particularly if you can’t store tables and chairs indoors over winter.

You need to get this paint on before the cold weather sets in though; frost, damp and rain will stop varnish drying properly, and increase the risk of your furniture warping.

If you’d like to chat about winter-proofing your garden or ask questions about any of the advice given here, please drop us a message using the contact form on our site. We’re passionate about all things garden-related, and we’re always happy to offer friendly advice to people in and around Michigan.

A Gardener’s To-Do List For September

A Gardener’s To-Do List

A Gardener’s To-Do List

Gardener’s To-do list: It’s not quite harvesting time, but September is still a great month for those of us with veggie gardens. Potatoes, marrows, and onions all come into their own at this time of year, and it’s also the perfect time to pick apples – particularly if you’re growing McIntosh, Honeycrisp or Empire varieties.

It’s not all about the fruit and veg though: September is also the best possible time to start planting out your borders with hardy, spring-blooming bulbs like snowdrops, tulips or daffodils.

There is lots to be done to the lawn too, and there’s even a little bit of planting for those of us who are feeling adventurous and want to see some fresh color come October/November.

When all’s said and done, September’s a month for preparing; a time to focus on laying the groundwork for future beauty. But it’s also a great time to get out there and get stuck in your garden, and it’s certainly one of the more rewarding months for those of us that like to tackle big projects

1. Harvesting Veggies

As mentioned above, September is the perfect time to pull up any onions that you’ve been growing. It’s also the perfect time to pick tomatoes, runner beans, and rhubarb. All of these vegetables have grown as big as they’re going to get, and harvesting them now means that you’ll be able to enjoy them at their ripest.

September’s also the best time to pull up any potatoes. They should be flowering by now and leaving them in any longer increases the risk of slug damage.

2. Replacing ragged annuals

On the subject of harvesting, you may have noticed that a fair few of your annuals are looking a little ragged now that the best months of summer have passed. This is the perfect time to pluck them out of your borders and neaten up in preparation for the cooler weather.

Don’t worry about things looking bare either; there are plenty of things to plant in their stead. Chrysanthemums, Goldenrod, and Japanese Anemone are all great examples of flowers that thrive in fall weather, and they’re all quite forgiving too.

Plant a few different varieties and you’ll be guaranteed a spectacular show that should last right through to November, even here in Michigan!

3. Planting Spring-blooming bulbs

Many flower bulbs can be planted in September. This includes popular choices like Tulips, and some of our personal favorites, like snowdrops and daffodils.

The bulbs will lie dormant in the winter months and then burst into life come early spring – providing a little bit of color long before most perennials are ready to start flowering.

If you plant a few different types of spring-blooming bulb, you can even create a staggered effect; ensuring a cascade of semi-permanent color that’ll last from March through to June, when your regular favorites are coming into their own.

It’s good to get your bulbs in the ground nice and early too – after all, there’s nothing worse than waiting until the first frosts have set in, and finding that you’ve got to dig through half-frozen soil to get them planted.

4. Feeding your lawn

It might sound counterintuitive, but September’s also the perfect time to apply some lawn feed. Liberal use of a specially-formulated, fall fertilizer will help to repair a lot of the damage done over the summer months and winterize your grass; giving the roots a bit of a boost so that they’re capable of withstanding the vagaries of a real Michigan winter.

If there’s a lot of thatch down, you may also consider scarification, although this is a bit more risky, as it damages the grass and there might not be quite enough good weather left to guarantee a full recovery.

5. Cover your pond

This one’s fairly self-explanatory: Most ponds don’t fare well if they’re left uncovered all winter. They’re a magnet for falling leaves and some species of cold-resistant algae tend to flourish in the gloomy months of mid-winter. As such, we’d always recommend covering your pond in September and leaving it covered until you’re ready to enjoy it again in March/April.

6. Plant the last of your cold-season vegetables

Finally, September’s the last chance that you have to sow any cold-season vegetables – Most of which you’ll be able to harvest in late November/early December.

It might seem counterintuitive to plant vegetables at this time of year, but trust us, spinach, broad beans, carrots and even some strains of asparagus will thrive in the early months of fall, and getting them in the ground now means that you’ll have a steady supply of home-grown produce all year round.

September’s a great time to plant any garlic bulbs too. They’ll lie dormant over winter, and start growing again come spring.

If you have any questions about fall-friendly flowers, or you want to know more about any of the tips listed here, do please get in touch! We’re always happy to offer help to anyone that shares our passion for gardening, and we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us a message via the contact form on our site and one of our team members will get in touch.

Repel Bugs Naturally with These 5 Plants

5 Plants that repel bugs naturally

Plants that Naturally Repel Bugs

Slugs, aphids, emerald ash borers, mosquitos, tomato worms – There’s no shortage of garden pests here in Michigan. Some of the most common critters can be a real menace too. You need only find one or two of your hostas looking all torn up and forlorn – with their perforated, scraggly leaves drooping down into the dirt – before you start developing a real dislike for the common garden slug.

Similarly, while we’re sure that mosquitoes are an essential part of the food chain, we’d still prefer it if they didn’t flock to our gardens every time the sun starts to drop below the skyline!

Fortunately, there are safe (and cruelty-free) ways of keeping bugs and animals out of your garden. In fact, there’s a whole host of different herbs, flowers and bedding plants that are known to repel common garden pests, and a little strategic planting can help to ensure that your garden stays unblemished year-round.

Some of these plants are actually more effective than other, traditional, methods too. They keep pests at bay using astringent chemicals and natural toxins, and we’ve found that they tend to yield much better results than things like the eggshell trick, or citronella candles – which have proven ineffective in several scientific studies.

So, if you’re trying to keep bugs or animals out of your garden, this is the guide for you! Drawing on years of combined expertise, we’ve put together a full list of all the best natural deterrents, including favorites like yarrow, and some staples like ageratum.

1. Marigolds

French marigolds are a good, multi-purpose insect repellent. Their scent is known to discourage whiteflies and a number of other, airborne insects.  several studies have shown that nematodes of many different types will try to avoid them. Some people do also report that French marigolds make for a good mosquito repellent but there is less evidence to support this.

Mexican marigolds are a different story entirely. They’re less effective at killing nematodes, but they are disliked by the vast majority of flying insects, so scattering them about the garden is probably a good first line of defense. There are also some rumors that Mexican marigolds can deter rabbits and other rodents, but we’re not sure we’d be confident relying on these (admittedly pretty) flowers for that.

Do take care when planting marigolds too – they’re a great way to repel airborne insects, but they do attract another pest: The dreaded slug. As such, we’d always recommend that you keep your marigolds away from any veggies that you want to keep slug-free, or companion plant with another natural slug repellent.

2. Rosemary

Speaking of slug repellents, rosemary is a fantastic plant that’s well-suited to repelling these ugly intruders. It’s thought that the tar-like substance that coat the plant’s trichomes are irritating to slugs, snails, and other land-borne insects, and planting a few bushes can help to clear up a border or bed quite quickly.

Rosemary does also produce a fragrant, woody scent that’s known to repel any flying insects with a sensitive nose (including mosquitoes, flies, moths and most beetles). The plant is native to the Mediterranean though, so it is quite challenging to grow it here in Michigan. Make sure it’s planted in well-draining, sandy soil, and make sure it’s in a spot that gets plenty of sun.

3. Nasturtiums

You’ll have probably heard about nasturtiums before – they’re widely regarded as the go-to plant for companion planting, and with good reason too. They’re known to release a potent insecticide-chemical that wards off whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids and the overwhelming majority of beetles.

It’s also a favorite of some species of bee, so you’ll be doing your bit for nature’s pollinators too! Most people plant nasturtiums around their vegetable beds, but they can also be planted in mixed borders for great results too.

4. Yarrow

Yarrow is one of our favorite insect repellents. Its natural oils are known to repel mosquitos and other, flying insects. In fact, tinctures made from yarrow are supposed to be stronger than DEET and dotting some plants in amongst your other flowers is a sure-fire way to drop the insect population overnight.

It’s actually yarrows insect-attracting effects that make us such a huge fan of Yarrow though. This delicate little plant is a favorite of ladybugs and its nectar attracts predatory wasps that’ll quickly wipe out unwanted insect populations.

5. Ageratum

Often dismissed as a ‘filler’ plant, ageratum is actually a great choice if you’re looking to keep bugs out of the garden. It secretes a chemical called coumarin, which is the primary ingredient in most mosquito repellent, and it’s particularly good at forcing flying insects out of the garden. It also produces another chemical that interferes with an endocrine release in insects and renders them sterile

Oh, and the icing on the cake? It’s toxic to grazing animals, and most herbivores will actively avoid it. The only slight downside is that it can spread like a weed, so make sure you keep it in check!

With this list of insect-repelling plants, you should be able to head out, and pest-proof your borders and beds. Companion planting can be tricky though, so if you have any questions about the advice given here – or you want to learn more about using these plants to bolster your garden’s natural insect defenses – just send us a message using the contact form on our site.

Guide to Preserving your Garden Flowers

Guide to Preserving Your Garden Flowers

Garden Flowers

There are few things to rival the pure, unbridled joy of cutting flowers from your own garden, and arranging them in a beautiful vase. They’re beautiful in their own right, and they’ll act as a reminder of summer’s vibrancy as the nights shorten, and fall draws in. A nice vase of cut flowers will also form a lively focal point on the mantelpiece, table or countertop of your choice – making them an ideal way to brighten up dreary rooms.

Unfortunately, cut flowers can’t feed themselves, which means that they can be quite short-lived. Untreated, they’ll wilt in a matter of days, and you’ll be left with a ragged bunch of greying greenery that’ll do little to lift the space they’re sitting in. They’ll also start to smell after a little while too, which is never pleasant.

To help you make the most of this summer’s blooms, we’ve put together this guide, which aims to provide a series of top tips to help you preserve cut flowers. Read on to find out what to keep them in, how to cut them, and how to keep them happy once they’ve been sitting out for a couple of days:

1. Rest your flowers before you arrange them

Yep, you read that right! Flowers, like any plant, get stressed by the messy business of cutting. If you take fresh-cut flowers and start manhandling them into an attractive arrangement, you’ll exacerbate the release of stress chemicals and speed up the process of decay.

Instead, we’d strongly recommend putting the flowers in a bucket of room-temperature water, and storing them somewhere cool for 12 hours. This will give them time to perk up a bit, and ensure that they’re strong enough to handle the arrangement process.

2. Keep them well fed

You wouldn’t think of trying to keep cut flowers without water, so why is food a different matter entirely? The leaves, stem, and petals of your flowers still need a ready supply of nutrients to keep their shape and color, so make sure you immerse them in a vase that contains a small amount of flower food.

If your feeling thrifty, you can also make your own – just add about 5 tbsp of malt vinegar and some sugar to your water, and stir well before immersing your stems. The sugar will feed the flowers, and the vinegar will keep pesky bacteria under control – removing problems with mold, or unexpected drooping.

Some recipes for homemade flower food also call for aspirin or lemonade but we haven’t found any real benefit to adding either of these ingredients. We’ve also yet to see any real benefit to adding a coin to the water, and it’s worth pointing out that bleach will quickly rob your flowers of their color.

3. Change the water every day

This tip isn’t revolutionary, but it is the key to keeping cut flowers looking fresh. As mentioned above, the so-called ‘natural’ wilting of flowers is actually mainly a reaction to bacterial growth and making sure that you switch out the water each and every day helps to stop these pesky little critters from multiplying quite as fast. You won’t be able to stave off the inevitable forever, but you will be able to slow it down some, and you should notice a significant difference if you’ve previously left your flowers sitting in the same old water for days on end.

If you can, we would also recommend using distilled or filtered water whenever possible. Your flowers don’t really need the minerals found in natural water anymore, and the filtration process does help to minimize the bacterial load.

4. Sear the stems whenever you cut

Every time you change the water, you ought to cut a little more of the stem down, just to make sure that your keeping things nice and fresh. To make doubly-sure that your flowers don’t start dropping, you can also use this opportunity to dip the ends in boiling water for a few seconds. This seals in all of the juices that keep things looking nice and firm, and lends a little extra life to tired blooms.

5. Remove dropping blooms as quickly as possible

When flowers droop, they actually set off a cascade of chemical processes that culminate in the release of ethylene gas, a natural substance that is designed to send a ‘ripening’ signal to nearby flowers of the same species. In nature, this process is essential, but indoors, it makes the whole vase wilt that little bit faster.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you pull out any flowers that are starting to wilt.

6. Score rose stems

This last tip is specific to roses, or plants with woody stems that aren’t amenable to storage in a vase. To help improve the uptake of water or food, you should cut as normal, then make a vertical incision about 5 centimeters up the length of the stem. You can also ‘bash’ the ends to a pulp, but this does tend to look messier, and it’ll make the water in your vase cloudy too.

Hopefully, these tips will help keep your flowers looking nice and fresh, but if you have any questions, or want to debate the finer points of homemade flower food, we’d always be more than happy to hear from you! We love exchanging knowledge with gardeners, and we’re really passionate about helping people to get the most out of their flowers, so just drop us a message using the contact form on our site!

August To Do List for Gardens and Flowers

August Gardeners To Do List

August To-Do List for Gardens and Flowers

Here in Michigan, we’re often blessed with a slight temperature drop in August. This can make it tempting to sit back and enjoy the sun, instead of throwing yourself into all of the frantic preservation work that you’ll see suggested in blogs dedicated to gardening in warmer, more temperate climates.

Sitting back now would be a mistake though. With fall fast approaching, August is the perfect time to start prepping your garden for the off-season. There’s also a lot that can be done to maximize the lifespan of your annuals this month, which is of vital importance if you want to stop everything from looking dead and bare come September!

To help you keep your garden in tip-top shape this August, we’ve put together the following list of important tasks:

1. Deadheading and Pruning

Taking the time to go around, and deadhead all of your annuals can really help to eke out one more round of flowers. The practice of deadheading actually stops your plants from pumping too much energy into the development of new seeds, and most plants will then use their reserves to push out a new set of petals – keeping your garden looking fresh and vibrant for a little while longer.

August is also a good time to deadhead perennials. If you can stop plants like Dianthus, Yarrow or Garden Phlox from seeding, you’ll leave them with bigger energy reserves, and improve their chances of fighting off any surprise cold snaps come fall.

To deadhead, just pinch (or snip) off the stem roughly halfway between dead flowers and the next set of healthy leaves. For bigger plants, like rose bushes, it can be helpful to be a bit more extreme, but make sure you leave enough foliage for the plant to sustain itself in the darker months of the year.

2. Taking cuttings and seeds

August is also the perfect time to gather seeds or cuttings for any of the annuals that you’d like to see again next year. Most plants are just starting to develop seed heads around now, and it’s very little trouble to go round and gather them up in preparation for the spring.

If you want to gather seeds from a plant, refrain from deadheading, and wait for it to develop its seeds. Once you’ve seen the seeds appear – whether they’re embedded in fruit, exploding pods or   – it’s time to gather them up and extract them for storage.

If your gathering seeds from something like a sweet pea, a berry bush or an okra plant, you should carefully extract the seed from the fruit using cold water and a fine sieve. If your gathering from a plant with an exploding seed head, you can just wrap the whole thing in a plastic bag and then wait for it to explode so that you can gather the seeds easily.

And once you actually have the seeds, it’s simply a matter of putting them somewhere warm and dry until it’s time to plant them.

3. Adding fertilizer

Chances are that quick-growing summer plants have sapped most of the nutrients from your soil, which makes August the perfect time to re-balance. To achieve this, simply add a good amount of a well-balanced fertilizer to your soil. Compost is another good option, particularly if you’ve been making your own. Just spread thinly and allow your plants to enjoy the nutrient boost.

You can also add an organic mulch to the soil around now. This will help to protect against early frost, and you will also find that the soil is slowly nourished by the decomposing mulch too – effectively killing two birds with one stone.  

If you’re growing veg, August is also a great time to feed fruiting plants – like eggplants, peppers or marrows – with a high-potash fertilizer to encourage the development of healthy new veg.

4. Scarifying the lawn

Over the long, hot months of summer, a thick layer of thatch will have been developing between your lawn and the soil. This layer of thatch is made up of all the dead, dry grass stems, and it can stop valuable nutrients from penetrating the soil – making a good round of scarification absolutely essential.

To scarify (or rake) up the thatch, wait until the very end of August, then take a gardening rake and drag it across the lawn, taking care to push down deep and drag out all of that decomposing turf. You can also use a powered scarifier if you have a very large lawn.

Chances are that you’ll be left with something that looks a little bedraggled, but once you’ve gathered up the loose debris and sewn some more grass seed, you’ll have paved the way to a fresher, healthier lawn come the following spring.

5. Dividing and transplanting perennials

Finally, August is a great time to divide and transplant any perennials. The plant will have plenty of reserves at this time of year, and they’ll have plenty of time to recover before the cold months of winter roll in. Harvesting now means that you’ll be well placed to take your offcuts to trade-ins and flower shows too.

For best results, tease out the whole plant with a garden fork and gently divide, then re-pot the transplant as soon as possible to ensure its survival.

If you have any questions about transplants, deadheading or scarification, we’d be more than happy to help. We’re passionate about helping people to get the most out of their gardens, and we have a lot of in-house expertise so just drop us any queries via the contact form on www.kalamazooflorist.com!