Who is Joe?
Joe Baltrukonis has been a member of the University of Minnesota Extension Ramsey County Master Gardener Program since 2000. He frequently publishes articles on sustainable and eco-friendly horticultural topics for not only our members, but for other gardening organizations as well. His wife Jennifer, edits and proofs Joe's articles- her eye for detail keeps Joe's information accurate and timely. Jennifer also writes articles for us. We hope you enjoy perusing this website for gardening topics that interest you, the home gardener.

I am looking at catalogs and catalogs of all sorts of new and old and exciting perennial plants. Wow, they are all beautiful, but they are expensive! 

There is another way to cure plant deprivation needs: seeds. With seeds, you can grow as many little plants as you want, plus have plenty left over to donate to support your local plant sales, or to share with fellow gardeners. Some of these seed-sown plants may require a year of more before they are large enough to bloom, but seed prices are economical for filling your garden. Some plants, especially beautiful wildflower species and exotic tropicals, are not readily available in nurseries as plants. A google search for perennial seeds will provide hundreds of choices. Checking Dave’s Garden Watchdog will find plenty of reliable vendors. When purchasing, be sure that the plants will be winter hardy here (anything rated Zone 4 or lower for hardiness will be fine). Tender perennials will have to be brought indoors during the winter. 

A new year of gardening has opened. Masses of garden catalogs signal the early arrival of spring. What does the new year hold for me and other gardeners? Here are some of my resolutions and those of others for your consideration:

  • Redesign the front yard: Jennifer and I have eliminated all grass and now have a miscellaneous collection of native and non-native perennials in a hodge-podge mess. It is more decoration than design. We are putting a lot of thought to planning, color, and design principles like balance, repetition, focal points, simplicity, rhythm and line, proportion, unity.

The gardening season is almost over. It is time for the final cleanup of our landscapes. In a week or two, billions of leaves will be available for adding to our gardens and compost piles. After that, we can still enjoy gardening by reading informative articles on the web.

Japanese Barberry

The Japanese Barberry came to the United States in 1875. Since then, this beautiful plant has been widely used in our landscapes. Deer will not eat it, because of the very thorny stems. Used as a hedge, children will not pass through it, because of the very thorny stems. It is insect, disease, and drought resistant. It grows well in full sun and in shade. It has been extensively hybridized and provides different sized cultivars with wonderful summer and fall colors. For years, it has been a best seller in the nursery trade.

It started in the small town of Cheshire, just north of New Haven, Connecticut. My Grandma, as a young child, came to this country from Lithuania. She was what some would call a peasant, a person with an inborn love of the soil, plants, dirty fingernails, and good food. She grew raspberries, peach varieties we cannot grow here in Minnesota, tons of turnips and other vegetables, and sweet corn. How excited she was to try some of the newest varieties of super- sweet corn! She loved to can produce. Her strawberry jam was more of a soup than a real jam or jelly, but it was delicious. The best wine that I ever tasted was when some old jar lids of jam loosened and the contents fermented. I know where my love of gardening comes from.