(light digital intro music) - Growing up on the farm, we would move our cows from the winter pasture to the summer pasture every May.
One year, while checking the cattle and fences, I came upon a hillside covered in beautiful blue violet flowers.
They were so pretty, and I picked a bouquet from my mom.
In August, when it was time to move the cows home I dashed to my hillside and all the flowers were gone.
I'm Mary Holm, host of "Prairie Yard and Garden", and join me in finding the happy ending to this story.
- [Advertiser] Funding for "Prairie Yarding Garden" is provided by Heartland Motor Company, providing service to Minnesota and the Dakotas for over 30 years in the heart of Truck Country.
Heartland Motor Company, we have your best interest heart.
Farmers Mutual Telephone Company and Federated Telephone Cooperative, proud to be powering Acira, pioneers in bringing state-of-the-art technology to our rural communities.
Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen in honor of Shalom Hill Farm, a nonprofit rural education retreat center in a beautiful prairie setting near Wyndham, Minnesota.
And by Friends of Prairie Yarding Garden, a community of supporters like you who engage in the long-term growth of the series.
To become a friend of "Prairie Yard and Garden", visit pioneer.org/pyg.
(light vibrant music) - After Tom and I were married, we went to visit my parents at the farm one Memorial Day weekend.
I had told Tom about my experience of finding the hillside covered with flowers, and then they had all died.
He wanted to see the spot.
So we walked to the area and there was the hillside, again, all covered with flowers.
This was the mystery of appearing and disappearing flowers.
So I turned to Steve Kelley from Kelley and Kelley Nurseries for answers.
- Thank you.
- What do you suppose my plants were that were appearing in the spring and then disappearing in the summer and fall?
- Well, from your description of the spring ephemeral, I suspect it was a pasque flower on the prairies.
- What is an ephemeral?
- I think you described it well; something that appears and then disappears.
So an ephemeral might be something that comes up in the spring, blooms and then fades away.
Unlike perennials, which are there all summer long.
- How did Kelley and Kelley get to be known for your spring ephemerals?
- Well, back in, I would say the '50s or '60s, two of my great uncles who started the business had an interest in wildflowers.
So they would go out and, you know, this isn't done anymore, they would go out to the roadsides in the hillsides and collect wildflowers.
We've been in business for 100 springs this very year.
Started the company in 1922, right on the old Kelley family homestead across the street from where we're standing, Uncle Rod was a landscape architect, and Uncle Bill was a land surveyor.
And it was at a time around Lake Minnetonka here, which is a great, one of the larger lakes in Minnesota.
The big, grand estates were developing.
A lot of people were moving out from the cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul and building their properties on Lake Minnetonka.
And so you might think of 19, early 1920s as being kind of rough times to start a business, but they really took advantage of some of those great landowners who needed landscaping.
We're a small company, so we have to have a niche.
We're out in the country, we're not on the main thoroughfare, so it's not something that people just drive by and say, "Oh, let's stop here."
We're a small company, as they say, only about 10 or 12 people in the summertime, evenly divided between the landscaping and the Garden Center.
- You have a lot of ephemerals here in your own garden, is that correct?
My wife and I, Arla, are great gardeners professionally and for fun.
So we're standing in the garden where, yeah, we can see a lot of ephemerals are still poking along.
A lot of 'em have gone by the wayside already.
At the nursery, we started under the shade of elm trees.
A lot of the spring ephemerals love the woodland areas, so they cultivated the ground up, with beautiful rich soil we have here in Orono, and they started from seeds, or cuttings, or plants that they had purloined from the roadsides.
- [Mary] Are most ephemerals in the woods or are they on the prairies or some of both?
- I'd say some of both, but mostly we are here dealing with the ones that are woodland-native wildflowers.
- [Mary] Why are ephemerals so common in the woods?
- [Steve] Well, I think part of it has to do with soil.
A lot of the woodland soils are moist and rich from all the leaves that fall down and rot away.
And a lot of the ephemerals take advantage of spring sunshine before the leaves develop on the trees.
So they'll come up, bloom before the leaves come out onto the trees and then fade away as the shade emerges.
- [Mary] How do ephemerals reproduce?
- [Steve] A lot of 'em reproduce by seed.
We can think of jack-in-the-pulpit with that marvelous cluster of red fruit in the fall.
They'll drop the seeds or the birds will scatter the seeds, or they'll spread by underground roots.
- If they kind of tend to die down, are there some that keep their foliage longer?
- Yes, the mayapple, which I would consider a spring ephemeral often has its foliage lasting well into June or July.
bloodroot holds a foliage a little while longer.
Hepatica might be considered a spring ephemeral, but for us it holds its foliage throughout the season.
- [Mary] Steve, why do the plants tend to lose their foliage?
- [Steve] That's their life cycle.
They've done what they need to do, they've flowered, they've produced seeds, their roots have increased for the next generation, and then they're done for the year.
Besides which the foliage, the wooden native ephemerals, the foliage comes out on the trees producing pretty dense shade and then, no, there's not much more for the plant to do.
- Steve, are there different classifications or kinds of ephemerals?
- Well, we can think of the native and the non-native.
Most of the ones we grow here are natives, simply because we just enjoy that simplicity of the flower and the plant.
And the non-native might be exemplified by this little primroses here, which is not native at all, but it is a spring ephemeral and we can classify it as non-native.
- [Mary] And is that hardy here?
- [Steve] Very hardy here.
We've had this in the garden for at least 15 years.
- Oh, it's beautiful.
- Isn't it gorgeous?
But we plant it amongst other things because when it dies down, obviously it's gonna leave a big hole there.
So that's the beauty of that.
The garden is in layers here; we've got spring things that'll fade away and then the next scene will come on.
- Would it be possible for you to show us some of your favorite spring ephemerals and then talk about the different varieties too?
- Oh, I'd love to.
(light mellow music) - Perhaps there's no smell as great as grilling meat, whether it's pork, beef, or chicken there's something special about meat cooked over a fire that brings out the best flavor and makes special memories for everyone, especially in summer.
A grill is a common way to cook outdoors, but smoking your favorite meats on a smoker has fast become a favorite method of many backyard cooks.
It doesn't matter the type of smoker you have, but time and patience yields a delicious meal every time.
Smokers come in a variety of shapes, styles and fuel type; electric, wood, pellet and charcoal.
If you use a charcoal style, you can easily add flavored wood chips to give the meat a smoky taste.
My favorite are apple chips, but I also like hickory and maple.
Pellet and electric smokers provide the most ease and often they have built-in thermostat controls to keep the heat consistent.
Unlike grilling where temperatures are often above 300 degrees, the desired temperature inside a smoker is between 225 and 250 degrees.
That's where the phrase low and slow comes in.
Coby Backman is a grilling and smoking enthusiast who enjoys smoking and raising beef.
- For beef, it should be bright red and well marbled.
The butcher shop is a good place to start, they'll help you out.
They can even point you to a farmer if they don't have the meat on hand.
- [Mary] Smoking beef from a locally grown producer is a great way to spice up your summer picnic.
With beef, the magic internal temperature for doneness is 160 degrees.
So it's important to use the meat thermometer or probe with your smoker, or use a digital meat thermometer for an accurate temperature reading.
And with other cuts of meat, like pork, the internal temperature should reach 145 degrees.
Poultry should be 165 degrees.
- The number one thing is probably patience.
- And smoking or grilling is always best using locally sourced products like beef, pork, and chicken.
You can find a list of these vendors in your area on Minnesotagrown.com.
- Well, Mary, here we are under this marvelous old white pine.
And you know, white pines give pretty much dry shade.
So look at the things that that survive in the dry shade of a white pine tree.
The roots are right at the surface, so these are really doers.
Now let's talk about the first one.
Here is a Dutchman's breeches, a real true spring ephemeral because it dies down quickly after it's through blooming.
Look at the roots on that's sometimes called squirrel corn.
Look at the little, what'd you call it, nodules right at the base.
And each one is gonna find its way over there, there and there, and you'll have just a mass of squirrel corn or Dutchman's breeches.
This is already bloomed, it bloomed first thing in spring, little Dutchman's breeches, very well named.
So that's a real true spring ephemeral, it's gonna die down pretty soon.
- And this native?
- That's native.
- This foliage looks familiar.
- Well, guess what it's related to?
The plant between us.
Here is another spring ephemeral, non-native, it's a white blooming bleeding heart.
It'll bloom and bloom and bloom.
Look at the buds, still starting here, It's gonna be blooming for weeks.
Beautiful white against that green foliage.
We're more probably familiar with the pink one, but white is coming to the fore a little bit too.
But this will bloom and then die down completely.
So a real true spring ephemeral, but non-native.
Now, another one, as long as we're here under the white pine.
And remember, look at the roots system.
Look at that, just a fine hairy roots, what can grow in that?
This is our native trillium grandiflorum.
Comes out white, the bloom comes out pure white and then fades to pink.
A lot of people will come in in the spring and say, "Oh, I've got a pink trillium."
And I'm thinking, "Well, maybe you do, but it starts out white."
Here's another one, a non-native, and we'll take a look at the underground here.
This one's called trillium cuneatum.
And I dunno if you can see the bloom here, Mary, it has a kind of a purple bloom, upward-facing, and the mottle leaf is kind of a giveaway.
Trillium cuneatum and spreads by little seeds.
But again, look at the roots, how does anything grow in that?
Look at the root there, look at that.
- That's from the white pine.
Now let's get rid of that.
- [Mary] So that's the root.
- This is the tree roots, yeah.
From this marvelous white pine.
Here are the roots of the trillium.
It's kind of a fleshy root with a lot of fine hairy roots coming out from it.
That's typical of the trillium root system.
So they'll spread by elongating and sending up more runners, more runners, more runners, more roots, more shoots, more shoots, more shoots.
- So this one, even though it's just beautiful, this one isn't a native- - Not here.
- But this one here is.
- Yeah, this one is, yeah, isn't that beautiful?
- [Mary] And again, always in the shade.
- [Steve] Always in the shade, yeah.
It prefers the shade.
Easy to grow.
You can see dry shade, they're not fussy about moisture at all.
Obviously they don't wanna dry out completely, but they'll die down in the summertime and at that time they don't need moisture.
They've stored it all for the next season of growth.
- [Mary] Steve, how about how long will these bloom?
- [Steve] Oh, it depends on the season, of course.
This year with this marvelous cool weather we've had, they've been blooming for at least two and a half weeks.
And this one looks like it's just fading, it's fading now.
You see that pink coloration, it's gonna go away probably in another week or so, and then the foliage will fade away and you'll just have a blank spot in the garden.
- [Mary] Wow!
Can we see a few more of your favorites?
- Oh, absolutely.
Let's go down the garden path.
Mary, one of my favorite spring ephemerals is called mayapple.
I think we can probably understand why it's called that, it blooms in May.
Let's see, if I can find a bud here, right there, kind of at the axles of the leaf stems, that's gonna open up like a little, like an apple blossom, and it's gonna have a fruit, well, more shaped like a lemon, I would say, than an apple.
But I suspect mayapple is pretty close enough for whoever named it.
This one grows in more of a shady, moist area, and dry area it would probably languish.
So this is an area probably about 50 feet from where we just were.
And mayapple forms a nice tight colony of these umbrella-like leaves.
Aren't they pretty?
- They're beautiful.
- Very distinctive.
Now, here's where the mayapple grows, how it grows.
It grows by these underground roots.
Well, of course, they're underground, that's how roots grow, but you can see here's the initial stem and here's the root for future growth.
So it forms a nice tight colony by these underground roots that travel along and then send up new shoots as they go along.
Very shallow rooted, likes moisture, good organically rich soil.
- [Mary] Does the foliage die down in the summertime too?
- [Steve] Yes, the foliage dies down after it's through blooming and fruiting.
It's a beautiful flower and it's a beautiful plant.
But again, you've got to figure out what's gonna happen here after this is through doing.
- What is that cute little thing over there?
- Well, I wish you were in bloom for us today, Mary, but it's not, it's called Dodecatheon or shooting star, and another well-named plant.
When each bud of this opens here, it's just like a star shooting out into the air.
This one is called Dodecatheon rubra.
It has gonna have obviously a red flower.
It comes in pink, whites again, a spring ephemeral.
It'll set seeds and you'll see little babies around, but I don't see any here now, but it will, it'll spread that way by seed.
- [Mary] Okay, so that's one that does by seed rather than all by chutes.
- Exactly across the path, Mary, is a plant called an anemone.
This one's called Blue Ensign.
And it's about through blooming now, so it's not a very good day to take a picture of it, but it's just a little apple blossom-like flower.
This one happens to be kind of a blush blue, a delicate foliage, almost fern-like foliage.
It'll die down completely when it's through blooming.
A very shallow root, it's right at the surface.
But that too likes kind of a shady, moist situation.
True spring ephemeral that'll just go away completely and you'll have nothing there until the the following year.
That's what I like about ephemerals, they're a surprise.
You forget that they're there, next spring, "Oh my gosh, look at you, you little dear."
Another nice very common spring ephemeral, Mary, is jack-in-the-pulpit.
Every kid knows jack-in-the-pulpit.
This could take some sunlight and grows in, look at here, grows in kind of a grassy area where a lot of things wouldn't.
I mean this competition from the grass must be horrible, but, you know, jack-in-the-pulpit.
Here's the pulpit, this little sheaf, and then here's Jack.
Can you see him?
- [Mary] (laughs) Yes.
- There he is.
Spreads by seeds.
As you can see, the root starting to form Mary.
That'll be blooming probably in a couple years or so.
And here this might be, this might be one from last year, a little bigger, little more mature.
But see the root system, they have a fleshy root, jack-in-the-pulpit, common.
We hardly think of it, but it's a true ephemeral.
- I have heard of one called Virginia blue bells - Oh!
- Do you have that?
- Well, blue as in blue, sky blue, beautiful.
Do we have it?
Wait till you see, Mary, it's across the street at the nursery.
It's a really true ephemeral spring ephemeral, comes up with kind of a strap-like foliage, a stem with bell-like blue flowers.
Sometimes the buds come up pink and then turn kind of bluish and seeds itself prolifically, can almost be a pest.
As a matter of fact, a friend who lives in Virginia where they're native was visiting and he said, "oh my gosh, Steve, "you've got more Virginia blue bells here than Virginia."
So that's how prolific they are.
It grows in, we've got growing where it gets morning sun.
It has a very fleshy carroty root, right, oh, maybe about that deep into the ground, and fades away quickly after it's through blooming.
- Steve, this is just so interesting and I'm learning a lot too, but can we actually see how you dig the plants or take 'em and get 'em to the customers?
- [Steve] Sure.
Let's get out of our home garden and go across the street to the nursery.
(light lively music) - I have a question.
When's the best time to prune my limelight hydrangea?
- So hydrangeas are one of the most beloved flowering shrubs in Minnesota landscapes.
We're here at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in September to talk about when to prune hydrangeas.
And actually the best time to prune most hydrangeas is at the end of winter or early spring before they start to leaf out or bud.
So they're basically three cutting tools that you're gonna want to use when you prune.
And this is the case with any shrub or even your trees in your yard.
You want a good solid bypass pruner.
These are called bypass because the blade passes by and it makes a nice clean cut.
This is a bypass loper.
This is for bigger branches, one inch and larger.
And you can see that it, too, is a bypass blade.
And then sometimes you actually need what's called a tree saw.
And this is a coarsely bladed saw and it's easy to get in, it's got a narrow blade that's easy to get into between the branches.
So when it comes to pruning your hydrangeas, in the case of a beautiful limelight hydrangea like this, this is a panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata.
In essence, you're just gonna prune off dead flowers.
So if you imagine that this flower is one of our spent flowers, it's brown, it's the end of winter.
You've left it on through winter for winter interest in your yard.
You just wanna count a couple of nodes down from the dead flower and make your cut.
So other things that you might wanna prune out of your hydrangeas are any dead growth, also, any crossing branches.
- [Advertiser] "Ask the Arboretum Experts" has been brought to you by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska dedicated to welcoming, informing and inspiring all through outstanding displays, protected natural areas, horticultural research and education.
- We're in the woodland garden, Mary, here where the spring beauty is just lush.
This is really a true spring ephemeral.
It dies down quickly after through blooming, but first it sets tons of seeds.
We're lucky to have this blooming today because mostly it's all gone.
We haven't seen too much bloom left on spring beauty, but here we are, look at that.
Is that spring beauty or what?
Look at the delicate pink lines on a white bloom.
But here, look at the blooms that have come.
Each little stem here represents a bloom and there's probably 50, 60 seeds inside that little stem.
And the capsule, which will release the seeds and you'll have great carpets of in time.
Very easy grower in shade or light sun.
Not particular about soils or moisture.
It's just a cute little spring bloom.
- Steve, you are right.
These Virginia blue bells are just stunning.
But how do you care for all of this?
- Yeah, it must be at least half an acre.
And the answer is, they require no care.
Just like a woodland, treated like a woodland.
They come up, they flower, they die down in the fall, they go back to dust-to-dust and that's it.
We don't cut them down, we don't mulch them, it's a woodland garden.
Think of it as a woodland garden.
- When you dig up plants and sell them to your customers, how do you know how many to keep so that you have enough for next year?
- Well, it depends on the variety, Mary.
A lot of the ferns are very slow to propagate, so we're always sure to have X number of ferns on hand for the following year, year, year, year, year.
A lot of things seed themselves prolifically, like the Virginia blue bells, we don't worry about it.
We'll sell as many as the customers will want.
So it just depends on the variety.
We're always aware of how many are in the ground at any one time, except the blue bells, we just know there's a gazillion of those.
- (laughs) When a customer comes in, how do you dig and sell a plant to them?
- Well, a I said earlier, some of the plants are growing in raised beds.
We can dig from there.
If not, if we have it only in the garden, I'll just come out with my spade, the customer says, "Oh, I'd like to have that fern, Steve, "can you dig it for me?"
And I'll say, "Sure."
(Mary laughs) Our soils are just delightful, really rich, organically rich.
So I'll dig that plant up, take a pot out of the garden.
(plant pot shuffling) And this is springtime of the year where the season's just unfolding, it's gonna do beautifully.
This is an interrupted fern.
I'll take it to the water spigot, give it some water, tell the customer, "Go home and plant it and take care of it "by watering it through the season, "mulching in the fall if it's late in the season."
Otherwise, they're pretty much on their own.
I think the most important part the first year is to keep it well watered.
If you don't have general rains throughout the season, make sure this doesn't dry out.
- [Mary] When is the best time to plant a spring ephemeral?
- [Steve] I would say either as they're just coming up as this fern is just unfolding a perfect time, ar in the fall as things are going dormant, late summer, early fall as things are going dormant, another good time to transplant it because they're dormant and they don't need a lot of fussing over in their new home.
- [Mary] Should you water them in well, when you first plant.
- [Steve] Yes.
And if we have dry spells, continue throughout the season.
- [Mary] Do you have to worry about them rotting if they go dormant and you water too much.
- [Steve] I've never had that problem.
They're usually pretty tough.
- [Mary] Do you have to mulch them for the winter?
- [Steve] We don't here because we have a lot of leaves from the trees that fall and that's a true organic mulch.
If you've planted it late in the season, it wouldn't be hard to top dress with some rotted compost or some shredded leaves or something like that to make sure that the plant makes it through the winter well.
- In the spring of the year, do you go through and mow the old foliage down at all?
- Now Mary, this is a woodland garden.
Does nature mow the foliage down?
This is just strictly low maintenance.
We take care of, make sure weeds aren't taking over, but other than that, the garden is on its own.
And it does this beautifully, look at this, we haven't touched it for years.
This garden was established in the late '50s, and we haven't touched a thing as far as maintenance goes.
- [Mary] When a person buys a spring ephemeral and takes it home and plants it, about how many years does it take until it starts either to make seed, or bloom, or start to spread by rhizomes?
- [Steve] I think you could probably count on a scant bloom for the first year or two, after that you should start to see some propagation, either by seeds or spreading rhizomes.
- [Mary] Wow!
So in about three years, you can have- - [Steve] In about three years, you should have something like this.
- [Mary] How far apart should people plant these ephemerals?
- [Steve] Well, it really depends, Mary, on two things.
It depends on the species and it depends on how quickly you want that garden to look mature.
For instance, ferns, I would plant maybe a foot, foot and half apart, if you really want a good standup ferns, you want it to look like something that's been there for a while.
Virginia blue bells can be planted three or four feet apart 'cause they're gonna spread quickly.
- [Mary] What are some other plants, since these die down, what are some other plants that you can plant with them to help fill in the space?
- [Steve] Oh, sure, that's a good question.
We often use astilbe, if we're thinking of a woodland setting, astilbe hostas, of course, are just a giveaway.
Solomon's seal might be kind of interesting.
The plumeria, brunneras, things that can take the shade and be attractive all season long and fill that space.
- [Mary] How can a homeowner take advantage of these beautiful plants that you've shown me?
How can they use them?
- [Steve] Well, they're best in kind of a woodland setting, or a setting that is somewhat shaded.
For years, people have thought about the woodland, "Oh, what can we do?
"What can we plant there, grass won't grow.
"All we can do is plant, "all we can do is lay rock mulch."
I say, "Oh, don't do that."
These love a woodland setting.
So anything you can think of, taking advantage of the shade, like the perennials we just talked about, these would just thrive in that kind of a setting.
- Well, thanks so much.
This has been fun and educational, and I'm sure our viewers will love it.
- It's been a joy for me as well.
Thanks for coming out, Mary.
(light soft music) - [Advertiser] Funding for "Prairie Yarding Garden" is provided by Heartland Motor Company, providing service to Minnesota and the Dakotas for over 30 years.
In the heart of Truck Country, Heartland Motor Company, we have your best interest at heart.
Farmers Mutual Telephone Company and Federated Telephone Cooperative, proud to be powering Acira, pioneers in bringing state-of-the-art technology to our rural communities.
Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen, in honor of Shalom Hill Farm, a nonprofit rural education retreat center in a beautiful prairie setting near Wyndham, Minnesota.
And by Friends of Prairie Yard and Garden, a community of supporters like you who engage in the long-term growth of the series.
To become a Friend of Prairie Yard and Garden, visit pioneer.org/pyg.
(light vibrant outro music)