This Thursday through Sunday (February 21st-24th) is the 38th Annual Connecticut Flower & Garden Show. The UConn Home & Garden Education Center along with the Master Gardener Program and the Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab will be staffing an exhibit and giving seminars. The UConn Horticulture Club will also set up a landscape display. For those of you unfamiliar with the Show, it takes place at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. There are going to be hundreds of exhibits and dozens of seminars and talks devoted to different topics pertaining to flowers, plants, and gardens.

Our exhibit is located at booths 419 and 421, across from the Federated Garden Club. We will be providing free soil pH testing along with limestone recommendations, so be sure to bring a small bag of your soil! Soil Test Kits will be on sale for $12.00 (cash or check only). There are also tons of handouts on composting, gardening, lawn management, and pest & weed control. We will be available to answer any questions you may have, provide useful tips and pointers, or just chat about any of the services we offer.

floor plant


flower show booth

(Setting up our booth. Image by Joe Croze.)

Aoril in Paril

(The theme for The Federated Garden Clubs of CT, Inc is April in Paris. Image by Joe Croze.)

Dawn Pettinelli, an Assistant Extension Educator as well as the manager of both the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab and Home & Garden Education Center, will be presenting two seminars on Thursday. The first is at 11:00 am and is about When Good Worms Go Bad, and the second is at 2:00 pm on Garden Ornaments.

Dawn Pettinelli

(Dawn Pettinelli. Image by

Pamm Cooper’s seminar, Gardening to Support Native Pollinators and Butterflies, is on Friday at 12:30 pm. Pamm was an assistant superintendent at a golf course for over 20 years, teaches entomology and turf portions in the Master Gardener Program, and worked with Dr. David Wagner studying caterpillars in a bio-survey for the Tankerhoosen DEEP property and Belding Wildlife Management Area. She now works in the Home & Garden Education Center office using her insight to help guide others and answer questions on better lawn and garden management practices.

Pamm Cooper

(Pamm Cooper. Image by

Carol Quish will be speaking about Healthy Gardens on Saturday at 2:00 pm. Carol earned a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Turfgrass Management from UConn, is an Advanced Master Gardener and Master Composter, and is a CT Nursery and Landscape Association Professional. Carol works as a horticulturist at the Home & Garden Center where she identifies pests, insects, and plant disease.

Carol Quish

(Carol Quish. Image by

Flower show exhibits

(Various exhibits throughout previous years. Images by Dawn Pettinelli.)

More information about the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show (ticket pricing, parking, additional vendors, booths, speakers, etc…) can be found online on their website or Facebook page:

We look forward to seeing you there!

-Joe Croze

Our Connecticut winter has not been too snowy so far but cold, dreary days also wear on the soul. If that vacation to warmer climes is out of the question, why not seek out some closer greenery to boost your spirits.

Two places not far from my home base that I love to visit this time of year are Logee’s Greenhouse in Danielson, CT and Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA.

Logee’s is a truly a treasured heirloom, at least in my book. The first of six greenhouses, now known as the Fern House, was built in 1892 by William D. Logee. Initially, it was used to grow cut flowers but Mr. Logee soon became enamored with tropical and other unique plants. After purchasing a Ponderosa Lemon tree in 1900, a second structure, the Lemon Tree greenhouse was built. As you might expect, the lemon tree was planted in it and remains there today producing lovely, large lemons and lots of cuttings for propagation.

citrus at Logees

Ripening citrus at Logee’s. Photo by dmp.

A family run business for over 100 years, Logee’s’ greenhouses are open to the public for viewing and purchasing a wide assortment of tropical and subtropical plants. They feature an herb house as well.

William Logee’s son, Ernest also found himself drawn to horticulture and among his many contributions to the business was his success at hybridizing begonias. Ernest was one of the original founders of the American Begonia Society. At one point in time, over 400 varieties of begonias were grown. Far fewer are presently being grown but there still remains an amazing assortment of begonia species and cultivars including some with exceptionally unique and lovely leaves.

Begonia Escargot

Begonia, Escargot at Logee’s. Photo by dmp, 2018

Take a midwinter stroll through their greenhouses and breathe in the warmth and fragrance. Rub the leaves of their scented geraniums and inhale the varied scents. Admire the vivid, full flowers of camellias and gaze enviously on their citrus plants weighed down by enormous crops of fruit. You’ll almost believe it is spring.

Camellia Logees

Camellia at Logee’s, Photo by dmp, 2018.

Seated on top of a hill overlooking Wachusetts Reservoir, Tower Hill Botanic Garden offers spectacular views, inspiring gardens, classic and unique garden ornaments, water features and best of all in the winter, two large conservatories filled with tropical and subtropical plants, forced bulbs and inviting resting places to collect one’s thoughts or admire what’s in bloom.

Turtle Fountain

Turtle Fountain at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Photo by dmp, 2011

This month of February features displays of Plants from the Apothecary GardenHealers and Killers. This past weekend showcased the Apothecary in Bloom with floral arrangements by a variety of talented individuals and businesses. Creativity abounded and when selecting viewers’ choice, it was a toss-up between ‘The Essence of the Garden’ designed by Hazel Schroder of the Greenleaf Garden Club and ‘Aesthetic Apothecary’ by Ruth Evans of the Framingham Garden Club.

Essence of the garden

Essence of the Garden. Photo by dmp,2019

Aesthetic Apothecary

Aesthetic Apothecary. Photo by dmp, 2019

Along the corridor was an apothecary’s cabinet filled with past and present healing herbs, tonics and other remedies. Pots of aromatic herbs for smudging as well as some examples of toxic plants were displayed with useful signage.

apothecary cabinet

Apothecary cabinet. Photoby dmp, 2019.

A walk through the conservatories flooded the senses with fragrant blossoms, bright yellow and orange ripe citrus, and the soft sound of falling water from wall fountains.

Wall fountain

Wall fountain Tower Hill. Photo by dmp, 2019.

Containers filled with colorful forced bulbs brought spring cheer into winter’s gloom. There is no best time to visit Tower Hill. Whenever you choose to do so, be prepared for some memorable scenery.

Oxalis, ivy & crocus

Oxalis, ivy and crocus. Photo by dmp, 2019.

Dawn P.

orchid yellow flower

Cold weather keeps gardening chores indoors. A recently acquired, but neglected moth or Phalaenopsis orchid came my way and needed some attention. I had another one on the window sill in need or repotting and set to the task. Moth orchids can outgrow their pots in about a year’s time as their wandering roots reach outside and above the edge of the containers. In their natural environment, they grow high in the trees, above the soil, taking all of their nutrients from the humid, tropical air, rain and debris which may land around the plant. This manner of growing is called epiphytic.  Leaves grow from a center grouping, sending roots out from just below leaf axis.

Mature plants usually flower late winter into spring. Flower show can last for several months. Repotting is best right after flowering. New orchids are often sold with roots packed in sphagnum moss to keep them moist during the shipping and retail portion of their life. Once home, moss and any plastic packing and pots should be carefully removed. Orchid roots like air and will rot if keep soggy and wet.

After removing moss.

Cut back any dead or rotted roots.


roots trimmed - Copy

After cutting back dead roots in moss.

pot half filled with roots above - Copy

Neglected roots cut back.

Phalaenopsis orchids prefer a porous pot such as terracotta which provides plenty of air. Some decorative orchid pots have holes designed in the sides for the roots to access more air. Water these plants and pots over the sink as water will readily run out.

Use specially formulated orchid bark mix for potting. The mix should contain bark, perlite and horticultural charcoal. Old bark deteriorates over about a two year period, and should be refreshed annually by repotting to keep the plants strong.

Fill the pots half full of bark mix, then set the trimmed root ball onto the bark, spreading out the roots carefully. Insert a plant stake or chopstick through the bark mix, next to the plant to help anchor the orchid.

pot half filled - Copy

Half filled with bark mix.

Gently add more bark mix over the roots to within one half inch of the top edge of the pot. Fill a large cooking pot or bowl with tepid water. Immerse the entire pot containing the bark and plant into the water to soak the bark for about 20 minutes. Then lift the terracotta pot containing the plant out of the water and let is drain in the sink. If settling occurs, add more bark. Orchids should never completely dry out. Keep the bark moist by soaking weekly, or water just the bark from above. Holes in pots are a must for good drainage.

Moth orchid should be placed in bright light, preferably east window. A south or west window will need a sheer curtain or the plant moved back out of the directly rays of sun to avoid leaf scorch.  In their wild home, they would be shaded by the tree canopy.

Orchids thrive in high humidity and temperatures around 75 degrees F with a slight drop at night. In the fall, reduced daylight and night temperatures of 55 degrees F will initiate flower bud formation. To provide more humidity, mist with clear water in the morning or set potted plant on a tray of pebbles and shallow water. The water will make a cone of evaporation surrounding the plant. Fertilize every two weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer during spring, summer and fall. Cut to half strength during the winter.

orchid 4

-Carol Quish



Io female 9-20-15 II

Female Io moth has prominent eyespots to scare birds and other predators

Many insects never make it to adulthood to complete their life cycles because in the grand scheme of things, they are low on the food chain. There are no lack of creatures that rely upon insects for food, both for themselves, and perhaps their young as well.

rose hooktip moth cryptic

Rose hook tip moth is hard to see resting on leaf in the woods

But insects are not necessarily limpid little defenseless victims of a more sophisticated life form. They have strategies to overcome the odds of becoming dinner for something else. Some use camouflage, others are cryptic in manner and color while some have mastered the technique of veiling themselves with material. Others simply hang out  in plain sight, protected by urticating spines or irritating hairs.

tortoise larva II

Clavate tortoise beetle larva carries excrement and debris over its back by means of a forked appendage on the rear of its abdomen

The wavy- lined heterocampa feeds and rests along leaf edges and manages to blend in to avoid many predators. Other caterpillars are armed with urticating spines or irritating hairs that release toxins when touched. Lesson learned after contact with these guys.

wavy- lined heteocampa 2 on leaf edge

a wavy- lined heterocampa caterpillar is feeding along the lower right of the leaf edge

Camouflage loopers are small caterpillars that are found on composites. They take petals from the plant’s flowers and “glue“ them on their body. They blend in so well that the only evidence of their presence will be that the flowers seems to be deformed. Other loopers are twig mimics and hide in plain sight.

camo looper

A camouflage looper (center, top) is aptly named, attaching pieces of flower petals to its body to hide on goldenrod flowers

Io caterpillars- two instars Photo Pamm Cooper

Io moth caterpillars are covered with spines that give a painful sting when touched

Some insects form leaf shelters which they hide inside to avoid discovery. Stink bugs often use abandoned shelters of other insects, while the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar makes its own by folding a leaf lengthwise.

spicebush final instar photo copyright Pamm Cooper

The caterpillar of the spicebush swallowtail not only has huge eye spots, but it hides inside a folded leaf on its host plant


There are insects that have eye spots that may help scare off predators like birds and small animals. The eyed click beetle, female Io moth and the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar are a few examples of insects that use eyespots as a threat defense. Some prominent caterpillars, like the white furcula and the black-etched prominent have modified anal prolegs that are more like tails. When disturbed, they flail these around and may scare off parasitic insects and other threats. The small filament bearer looper has a pair of pale-tipped tentacles on its dorsum it can flail about when alarmed.

black etched

Black- etched prominent caterpillar flailing modified anal prolegs

eyed click beetle Ruby Fenton picnic table 6-15-14

Eyed click beetle

Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis bagworms spin a silk bag to which they attach host plant leaf material-whether pieces of leaves or needles. They remain safely inside until night comes, which is when they feed. Hard to detect when host plant material is fresh, during the winter look for the dangling brown bags. Remove as you see fit.

bagworm case on small oak sapling mt rd power line january 2019 Pamm Cooper photo II

Pieces of oak leaves were stuck on the silken bag of the Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis eastern bagworm.

Walking sticks are very cryptic in coloring, often blending in with leaf veins of host plants. Unless they move, they are very difficult to discover. Some loopers have coloring and markings that are very similar to their host plants, one being the oak besma caterpillar.

walking stick blending in on filbert July 1, 2014

Walking stick blends in with the leaf veins of native filbert

Viceroy and red- spotted purple butterfly early instar caterpillars eat leaf tips first and then rest on the exposed midrib where they are hard to see. Later instars hide in plain sight on upper sides of leaves, avoiding detection by resembling bird droppings and remaining stationary by day.

VICEROY CATERPILLAR resting along midrib of eaten leaf

Viceroy caterpillar on mid rib of eaten leaf tip


Some insect larvae feed within plants where they escape predation. Gall- forming insects, leaf miners, and borers are some examples of internal feeders. The female leaf rolling (or thief) weevil chews along oak leaves and rolls the flap tightly. It remains attached to the leaf, so the piece stays alive as the weevil larva feeds safely from inside this structure called a nidus.

Grape Tube Gallmaker galls on a wild grape leaf

Grape tube maker galls on wild grape


There are many other ways that insects can survive predation including cryptic coloring, hiding in leaf litter, and simply dropping from plants when alarmed. They may be small, but they are well equipped for their struggle to survive on planet earth.

oak besma twig mimic

Oak besma looper on right, oak twig of host plant on left


Pamm Cooper





There is not a slower time in the garden than January when the ground is frozen, often under a blanket of snow, plants have died off or lay dormant, and most insects and small animals are snug underground.


Among the animals that may hibernate from October to April are slugs and snails, happy to find a site that doesn’t go below 0°F. Their eggs are also capable of withstanding freezing temperatures. So even though we can’t see them right now, they are out there, just waiting for the ground to warm up in the Spring when they can return to our gardens and feed on our new plants!

Slow moving slugs and snails are primordial gastropod mollusks (or molluscs) in the class Gastropoda and are invertebrates that may be found in salt or fresh water or on land. Gastropod is derived from the ancient Greek words ‘gastér’ for stomach and ‘podos’ for foot, their literal means of locomotion. Some land and freshwater snails and slugs have a simple lung from which they breathe while other freshwater snails such as this zebra nerite (Neritina zebra) breathe through gills. This video shows not only how quickly a marine snail can move around on its single foot but also its mouth as it feeds on the algae in this water garden tank.

This grove snail, Cepaea nemoralis, is a pulmonate land snail, meaning that it breathes through a simple lung which is somewhat visible through its translucent shell. A snail is born with a very soft shell and they need to consume large amounts of calcium early on in order for it to harden, starting by consuming the shell of the egg that it hatched from. This tiny newborn shell becomes the center of the coiled spiral that forms as the snail grows.


Some shells form into elongated spiral shapes such as the tree snail of the Drymaeus species below on the left and the garden snail, Cornu aspersum on the right.

And then there is the ultimate example of recycling where hermit crabs will occupy marine snail shells whose occupants have died. This fellow was filmed in the Bahamas:

The shell-less gastropods, or slugs, that are common to Connecticut gardens include the netted or grey garden slug, Deroceras reticulatum. It is a major pest which loves to feed on leaves, seedlings, and young fruit such as the developing cucumber shown below. The cucumber is shiny with the slug’s slime.

These small slugs actually thrive in cultivated areas such as our gardens and landscapes, feeding at night and sheltering under stones or litter during the day. An interesting aspect of ‘slug watching’ is seeing their bodies lengthen and thin out and then contract and grow bulbous again as they move along. They almost seem to be formed a of a thickly viscous fluid as they drape over a plant or rock.

Also familiar to the Connecticut gardener is the slug Limax maximus, shown below, so called as it can grow to 5” in length. It is a nocturnal slug that returns to a particular crevice under stones or fallen trees after foraging in lawns, gardens, cellars, or damp areas. Also known as the great grey slug or the leopard slug due to the dark blotches that stand out against the lighter background of its upper body, it is a detrivore, meaning that it feeds on detritus such as dead plants and fungi although it can be a major pest in a garden where it can consume young plants. It will pursue and consume other slugs if it feels threatened.

The black slug, Arion ater, is rarely a pest in gardens, preferring terrestrial areas. This slug will contract into a spherical shape when threatened but can reach up to 4.5” when expanded to its full length.

large black slug, arion ater

Slugs and snails both produce a layer of protective mucus that is a combination of lubricant and glue from their foot which is useful in both movement and in securing the creature to surfaces. Another type of mucus coats the body to prevent desiccation, aid in healing, and protect soft body parts. Snail slime is currently an ingredient in many cosmetics where those same properties are desired, so land snails are bred on farms for the cosmetic industry. Snail farming is known as heliculture or heliciculture which derives its name from the family Helicidae to which snails belong. These farms also grow snails for consumption such as in the traditional French dish escargot or the eggs are eaten in a fashion similar to caviar.

snail damage

If slugs and snails are pests in your garden, eating and damaging plants, then check out our fact sheet Slugs and Snails for information on control options.


Susan Pelton

All images by Susan Pelton

With the encroaching winter storm and dropping temperatures, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a very interesting and unique soil order, the Gelisol. Soils are dynamic systems that are essential to life as we know it, and are nonrenewable resource that vary in physical and chemical composition throughout the world. Parent material (underlying bedrock, glacial deposits, wind-blown sediment, etc…), climate, topography, biological activity/factors, and time are the 5 soil forming factors. Different places on the planet will produce a wide variety of variations of these 5 factors. To help understand and classify soils, 12 different orders were formed. The 12 different Soil Taxonomy Orders are: Alfisols, Andisols, Aridisols, Entisols, Gelisols, Histosols, Inceptisols, Mollisols, Oxisols, Spodosols, Ultisols, and Vertisols. Each order has unique properties that are a result of 5 soil-forming factors.

gelisols global map

Figure 1: Global Distribution of Gelisols (NRCS

Gelisols are, in my opinion, the most interesting and important soil orders. The Soil Science Society of American defines Gelisols as soils that are “permanently” frozen containing permafrost within 100 centimeters of the soil surface, and/or gelic materials within 100 centimeters and permafrost within 200 centimeters of the soil surface. Permafrost is soil and rock that remains below 0 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 2 years; and “gelic materials” are soil components that show evidence of cryoturbation, or frost churning, a mechanism unique to gelisols. Cryoturbation is the irregular breaking and mixing of soil horizons (think different segmented layers of soil) via the movement of water caused by seasonal melts and thaws. To clarify, just because your front yard is frozen for a few months in the winter is not enough to classify the soil within as a gelisol.

gelisols soil stelprdb1237732

Figure 2: A Gelisol (SSSA

According to the United States Geological Survey, around 9% of global ice-free land area contain gelisols. They are found in tundra and cold-weather environments, which has made them a hot topic of conversation as the effects of climate change are becoming more obvious. Trapped within the permafrost, contained within gelisols are large amounts of preserved carbon. Over thousands of years, during the last ice age, carbon was deposited in permafrost as ice sheets advanced and retreated. Bedrock was ground into fine silts and dust via glacial movement. This glacial flour was blown across the world and deposited, covering everything in sight, including plants and animals. Quick burial in cold environments doesn’t allow for decomposition of organic material. So as a result, modern day gelisols are a giant carbon reservoir. As climate change continues, the environments containing gelisols are more at risk of melting. Melting gelisols means that the organic material within them are now subject to rapid degradation. The decomposition of organic matter releases carbon in various forms, the most dangerous being methane. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas that acts to trap light in heat within our atmosphere. Hopefully you can see the problem: increasing climate change has the potential to thaw gelisols, releasing large reservoirs of methane into the atmosphere, effectively increasing the rate of climate change exponentially. Quite literally adding fuel to the fire.

baby the bison

Figure 3: Babe, the bison was found in thawing permafrost is estimated to be around 36,000 years old. (Photo by: Bill Schmoker (PolarTREC 2010), Courtesy of ARCUS)

-Joe Croze, UConn Soil Lab

Wandering through the woods across the street from my childhood home, I was always anxious to identify the next new plant or bird I encountered. Leafing through the pages of my well-worn Golden Guides, I would do my best to pick out the specimen and then mark it off in the table of contents – my plant and bird life lists before I know what one was.

golden guides trees

Golden Guide from

None of the Golden Guides I owned were able to identify this one curious, moss-like plant and it wasn’t until I took botany in college that I discovered club mosses. The three species I most commonly happened upon in woodland and wetland walks were shining club moss (now called shining firmoss, Huperzia lucidula), running cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum) and ground pine (Dendrolycopodium obscurum).


Shining fir moss from Wikipedia commons

running cedar diphasiastrum from wikipedia

Running cedar from

Truthfully, I had not been giving club mosses much thought these days until my brother presented me with a frosty fern as a holiday hosting gift. Looking up care for a frosty fern (Selaginella krausuanna variegatus), I discovered that it is a club moss relative. The secret to keeping a frosty fern is bright light but not direct sun, adequate moisture and a good dose of humidity. The watering part is not hard but it is difficult to keep heated homes humid during the cold winter months.

frosty fern

Frosty fern. Photo by dmp, 2018

All of these plants were at one time placed in the Lycopodiaceae family and into the Lycopodium genus. These plants have since been reclassified and like asters, their older, easier to pronounce Latin names have been changed. Now the Flora of North America recognizes 7 genera and 27 species although there are probably several hundred species worldwide. Since they do share many similar characteristics, I’m going to group these fascinating plants together when discussing their natural history and life cycles.

Club mosses or lycophytes evolved over 410 million years ago. They were one of the earliest groups of vascular plants. In case you need a biology class reminder, vascular plants have xylem and phloem tissues that move water, nutrients and carbohydrates throughout the plant. During the Carboniferous geologic period (360 – 286 million years ago), lycophytes along with ferns and horsetails were dominant forms of vegetation in some areas of the planet with some club mosses reaching 100 feet in height. As these plants died out by 250 million years ago, their petrified remains became today’s coal and fossil fuel beds.

gettyimages-carbon era

Vegetation in Carboniferous period consisted of huge club mosses, ferns, horsetails and other plants. From Getty Images.

Lycophytes are evergreen plants and fairly cosmopolitan in nature found from the arctic to temperate forests to the tropics. As a general rule of thumb, most tropical lycophytes are epiphytes and most arctic and temperate ones are terrestrial. Although the species native to this area often appear to look like separate miniature evergreens, they are generally connected together by rhizomes or runners. What appear to be leaves are actually structures called microphylls. They have but a single cylinder of vascular tissue to carry water and nutrients.

Plants have a curious but primitive reproductive system – they reproduce by spores. In some club moss species, club-like appendages, called strobili, are produced on the tops of the conifer-like plants. These have structures called sporangia (singular is sporangium). In other species, the sporangia are formed on certain ‘leaves’ of the plant. Wherever they occur, each sporangium produces large numbers of tiny spores. These are often collected and sold as lycopodium powder. The spores germinate to form gametophytes which then go on to produce eggs and sperm. Sometimes the gametophyte generation develops below ground with the help of mycorrhizal fungi and sometimes above ground, depending on the lycophyte species. Eventually the sperm fertilizes the eggs and the sporophyte generation, which is the plant we see above ground, arises. It may take up to 15 years for the plant to complete its sexual reproductive phase. Some club mosses can also reproduce asexually by means of rhizomes or runners and some even have specialized groups of cells on the tips of their stems, called gemmae, that fall off and become new plants.

princess pine

Princess pine aka Dendrolycopodium obscurum with ‘clubs’ or strobili. Photo by dmp, 2019

Humans have found many uses for club mosses including holiday decorations. Because the plants are so slow growing, this practice is frowned upon and should be discouraged.

princess pine 3

Ground pine colonies are found in deciduous hardwood forests. Photo by dmp, 2019

Since ancient times, Native Americans as well as Europeans have used the spores and leaves for medicinal purposes such as to cure digestive and urinary tract problems, for skin ailments and inducing labor. Because the spores repel water, they were used by pharmacists to coat pills, to treat skin rashes and even on babies’ bottoms. They were also used as dye plants.

Another property of spores is that they are highly flammable. This lead to them being used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes, in early flash photography, fireworks and in stage productions. Lycopodium powder is still sold for many purposes including their pyrotechnic properties!

Happy Horticultural New Year!

Dawn P.