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Charlie’s Mid February Newsletter

Colorful Coreopsis, Growing Squash Vertically, A Garden in Denmark, and Scenes from the Flower Shows

Indoor Flower show with pink and purple flowersI’m in the middle of my “speaking at the flower shows season” and enjoying seeing the sights and sounds of spring indoors across the country. It also gets me inspired to try new plants. One perennial I talk about in this newsletter is coreopsis. This hardy native is a beauty in a full sun flower garden. Newer varieties come in a wide range of colors making it versatile paired with many perennials. Learn more about coreopsis growing here.

I love growing squash, but with all the other edibles and flowers we have in our raised beds, it’s hardy to fit them in the garden. That’s why I’m starting to grow our squash vertically. There are old and new varieties of summer and winter squash that can be trellised up a fence, pergola or arch and still yield an abundance of tasty fruits. Learn more about how to vertically grow your squash in this newsletter.

Egoskov castle in DenmarkOur Castles and Gardens Tour of Denmark and Sweden for September, 8th to 17th, 2024, is filling up fast. But I know things change for travelers so I still encourage you to check it out and get on the list. I highlight one of the gardens we’ll be visiting in this newsletter. It’s Egeskov Castle and Garden Park in Denmark. This impressive castle and garden park features a huge maze, formal gardens, English gardens, herbaceous borders, an amazing fuchsia garden and edible gardens. It’s rich history is on display in the castle and gardens which date back almost 300 years. Check out more about the Egeskov Castle and Gardens here.

I mentioned earlier I’m speaking at a few different flower shows. I always encourage gardeners to attend and support these shows as they are often put on by local horticultural organizations and feature lots of great demonstration gardens, garden vendors and talks. I invite you to check out the ones I’ll be attending, and others, through the late winter. Learn more about the Northwest and Connecticut Flower and Garden Shows in this newsletter.

I’m also starting a highlight some of my most popular webinars. Below is a link to my Foodscaping. It’s a good way to grow edible plants in your yard without sacrificing beauty.


Webinar of the Week: Foodscaping

Foodscaping webinar with edible landscapeEveryone loves to grow their own produce. But many gardeners don’t have the space for more gardens. How can you have edibles and a beautiful yard, too? The answer is Foodscaping. Foodscaping or Edible Landscaping is a way to have a beautiful landscape and yard and grow some of your favorite vegetables, berries, fruits and herbs. Foodscaping is another way of saying edible landscaping. In this webinar I’ll talk about places in your yard to grow foodscape plants besides the garden. I’ll talk about designs principles to make it look beautiful. And I’ll share some of my favorite flowers, veggies, herbs, berries and trees and how to grow them.

You’ll learn why growing your own food is important, where to grow foodscape plants in your yard, how to substitute ornamental plants with foodscape plants and not sacrifice beauty, some design techniques to make your foodscape more beautiful, examples of some foodscaped yards and some of my favorite veggies, flowers, herbs, berries and fruits for your yard.

Check out this Foodscaping Webinar here


Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.



Where to Find Charlie: (podcasts, TV and in-person)In the Garden TV tips

How to Grow: Colorful Coreopsis

yellow coreopsis flowersThere are some perennial flowers that have unfortunate names. Take coreopsis. It’s common name is tickseed. That doesn’t sound like an attractive name for a flower, but the flower itself is a beauty. Coreopsis in a native plant that’s gotten lots of attention from plant breeders. The species version (Coreopsis grandiflora) has a dainty yellow flower that blooms in early summer on 2 foot tall plants. But there are lots of variations to this tough perennial that you should try.

Red coreopsis flowers‘Early Sunrise’ is a classic yellow flowered version but also has semi double flower petals. It’s a zone 4 to 9 hardy plant that, like all coreopsis, is a favorite of pollinators, butterflies and birds. However, rabbits and deer seem to leave it alone. It also makes a great cut flower. ‘Berry Chiffon’ has a pink and white colored flower, grows only 18 inch tall and flowers like an annual, from early summer to early fall. ‘Sizzle and Spice Crazy Cayenne‘ is a unique, bright red colored bloomer that again is shorter than the species and is hardy to zone 5. ‘Mercury Rising’ has single, velvety, burgundy colored blooms and ‘American Dream’ stays a short 1 foot tall with single, pink flowers.

Yellow and red coreopsis flowersPlant coreopsis in a full sun location on well-drained soil. Once established, coreopsis is drought tolerant and makes a good companion for other dry soil tolerant perennials such as gaillardia, liatris and sedum. We grow ours in a full sun, hot, sunny garden that’s South facing. In warmer climates you might want to give it a little afternoon shade. After flowering, to stimulate a second round of blooms, cut back the plant by 1/3rd and it will regrow and bloom again in late summer. Some of the newer varieties are more floriferous and bloom on and off all summer.

As with other perennial flowers, leave the spent flowers in fall for the birds. Gold finches in particular love the “tick sized” seeds as a snack. Don’t cut back the perennial plant until spring once you get a string of 50F days. While the species version in long lived, some of the more colorful hybrids may need extra care to survive a long time. Also, the hybrids won’t self sow, but the species types will set seeds. The yellow species types also make good meadow plants.

Go here for more on growing Coreopsis in your garden

American Meadows Ad with wildflowers

Vining Squashes 

Vining zucchini on a wire fenceWe love to grow summer squash, zucchini and winter squash, but often run out of room for them. The vining winter squashes and pumpkins often end up crowding the pathways between raised beds with their growth by mid summer. The solution is certainly to try some of the more compact growing, hybrid squashes such as ‘Bush Delicata’. Another solution is to train the squash vertically.

Italian Trombocino vining squash on fenceWhile training heavy squashes like butternuts and hubbards vertically may require a very sturdy trellis or pergola and a sling, some of the smaller fruited types, like Delicata, and summer squash and zucchini, are much easier to manage. We grow the vining Italian zucchini named trombocino or ‘Trombetta de Albenga’. It vines up our 7 foot tall wire fence that protects our garden from deer. It creates these long, thin necked squashes that, when picked at a small stage, are great for soups, stews, roasting and sauteing. The thin neck has no seeds! If you leave them to mature to a hard skinned, brown color, they can grow up to 5 feet tall. That’s a lotta squash!

Another newer variety that’s easier to trellis is ‘Escalator’ zucchini. It produces regular, dark green skinned, zucchini fruits. The vines are strong enough to climb a vertical fence and, if you keep up with picking the fruits at 5 inches long, they won’t weigh down the plant. It’s a great way to have tasty zucchini without sacrificing much space. Of course, the old fashion ‘Early Crookneck’ summer squash also can be trained to vine. It may need some help with support on a vertical fence by attaching Velcro Brand Garden Ties to the stems and fence. But, like the ‘Escalator’ zucchini, if you keep picking the squash when they are small, it keeps producing and the plants never get too heavy for the trellis.

Young squash fruit hanging on vine on trellisStart your summer squash and winter squash seedlings indoors about 4 weeks before your last frost date and transplant them into warm, compost amended soil. Don’t be in a rush to transplant because squash like the heat. Place the plants close to a trellis, pergola, or fence. You may have to help them climb at first, but once growing the tendrils will grab hold and the plant should climb and support itself. To avoid squash bugs and squash vine borers, consider planting summer squash and zucchini in an elevated bed and trellis the vines above it on a fence.

Keep picking. Not only will this stimulate the plant to keep producing, it will help keep the vine vertical. To reduce powdery mildew disease, pick off bottom leaves to allow for more airflow through the plant.

Go here for more on growing squash


Egeskov Gardens in Denmark

Egeskov Castle and gardenOn our upcoming Castles and Gardens Tour of Denmark and Sweden we will be visiting some amazing royal castles and gardens. We also will be visiting some smaller private gardens as well. Between the grand splendor of the large royal castles and more intimate private gardens are smaller, rural castles and garden parks. One that we will visit in Denmark is on the Isle of Funen, also know as the Garden Island.

Egeskov castle and vegetable gardenEgeskov Castle and Garden Park is extensive. It is about 300 years old and fashioned after some of the grander castles in Denmark such as at Frederiksborg. There is an extensive network of hedges defining the various garden rooms. If you love mazes, Egeskov doesn’t disappoint. There is an old, beech hedged maze on the grounds, a newer willow maze and a yew maze with a sundial in the center.

There’s lots of gardens to tour. There’s a scented garden with medicinal and fragrant plants surrounded by a wattle fence. The fuchsia garden has one of the largest collections of fuchsia in Europe. Some of the plants are 70 to 80 years old and are shrubs! The herbaceous border features 250 different perennial flowers. The rose garden has a wide variety of roses including the ‘Egeskov’ rose. There’s a kitchen garden with raised beds and a castle nursery for raising plants. There is also a formal Renaissance garden and an English garden as well.

Egeskov castle and pond with white flowersThe park and castle are surrounded by moats and ponds giving this garden area an ancient feel. Check out our Castles and Gardens Tour of Denmark and Sweden and consider pre-registering for the trip to save a space. We are almost filled as I write this newsletter, but we will have a waiting list.

Learn more about our Castles and Gardens Tour of Denmark and Sweden here


In Our Garden: Scenes from the Flower Shows

Northwest Flower Show daffodils Every February and March I venture out to visit and speak at some flower shows across the country. Flower shows are a great way to shake off the winter blahs and get inspired for spring. While it may be cold and rainy or snowy outside, indoors at these flower shows it’s another world.  They’re filled with flowering trees, shrubs, bulbs, annual and perennial flowers and vines. There’s also themed gardens with structures, water features and sculptures. The whole atmosphere says spring and gives me great ideas for the coming gardening season.

Another nice feature of these regional flower shows is they are created by local horticulturists who can be a resource if you’re looking for landscape design help or landscaping in your yard. There are many garden oriented booths selling plants, seeds and garden accessories.

There are also a juried container and cut flower show as part of the flower shows. These are often run by National and Regional Garden Clubs. It’s amazing the floral designs and container plants that individuals grow and create in their own homes.

Of course, my involvement is often in the speakers series. The two shows I’m attending this year have an extensive list of nationally and regionally known garden speakers. You can spend the whole day just listening and learning from talks and DIY demonstrations on every garden topic imaginable. I’ll be talking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle on Soils and Mulches and Pruning on the DIY stage on Saturday and Sunday (2/17 & 2/18). At the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford I’ll be discussing Ecological Gardening and Companion Planting on Saturday, 2/24. I often see gardeners scurrying between lectures to catch their favorite speakers and topics. Your admission fee allows you to attend any talk that day.

Northwest Flower Show Tropical GardenSo, check out your regional flower shows this month and next. Here’s a short listing of some of the indoor flower shows around the country. And get ready for spring!

Check out the Northwest Flower and Garden Show here


Check out the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show here



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