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Posted: September 08, 2012

Taste a native pawpaw, if you haven't. They're the largest indigenous fruit of the eastern U.S. and they're awesome. My large tree had a bumper crop this year. I mainly use them in my smoothie breakfast drink or just eat them plain. Their sweet, tropical flavor and custardy consistency makes them easy to eat. Pawpaws reportedly were George Washington's favorite fruit, and American Indians used the fibrous inner bark of the tree to make fishing nets. The seeds also were thought to have been used as wampum by native tribes, who carried them farther west for trade. The seeds are large and can be cleaned and refrigerated for 70 to 100 days, then planted in the ground or in pots. It can take five to eight years before the tree starts bearing fruit, but it's certainly worth the wait. Pawpaws, which typically have a relatively short stature (up to 30 feet), don't appeal to deer but do attract zebra swallowtail butterflies for part of their life cycle. In fall, the tree has great yellow color; in spring, it produces beautiful maroon flowers that turn green when fertilized. For more information, go to www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/pawpaw/ppg.htm.

Shop for natives. If you're interested in adding layers of color to your woodland, or want an interesting native plant for a container, you'll want to check out this month's plant sales. They include those at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, whose 134 acres feature more than 800 species of native plants, and Collins Nursery in Glenside, where you can taste pawpaws and buy other native trees, shrubs and perennials. Peruse their catalogs before you make the trip: bhwp.org and collinsnursery.com.

Prepare for winter - call an arborist. Athough I'm one myself, I still call my arborist to do work on certain areas of my property, usually the unmanageable stuff like trimming the large hedge under the power lines. Professionally certified arborists have the training and experience around power lines. I plan to get this pruning done now so no branches will cause problems if there's a heavy snow this winter. Preventive pruning can eliminate headaches later on. For information, go to the International Society of Aboriculture's website: www.treesaregood.com/treecare/hire_arborist.aspx

Clean up roses. If you had any problems with disease this season, clean up the leaves and remove any dead parts of the plants. This is especially helpful with black spot, a fungus that overwinters in fallen leaves and in lesions on infected canes. By getting rid of those leaves and canes now, you'll lessen the chance of reinfection next year. And don't compost these materials; use my black-trash-bag trick instead. Allow the plant debris to bake in the sun for several days inside the sealed bag; the heat buildup should kill off the diseased parts. Then throw the bag into the trash. Be sure to sterilize your pruners between trimming sessions to prevent the spread of any disease. For more on rose diseases, go to www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1163.html.

Transplant seedlings. My hellebores, also known as Lenten roses, have lots of offspring, and I've begun transplanting them to parts of the garden that need more visual interest. Check yours to see if they need thinning and take full advantage of the seedlings, such as replacing English ivy with them. They'll have plenty of time to establish before the first frost. If you don't have any Lenten roses in your garden, you can find them now in garden centers, along with other attractive ground covers like hardy plumbago (leadwort) and epimediums.

Take a beekeeping class. Beekeeping 101 is a new course offering by Penn State for an international student body online. Participants have access to course materials for up to a year on the site and the class is taught by nationally recognized entomologists. The benefits are the self-paced content and the knowledge to maintain a hive of pollinators in your own backyard. Another plus is the honey. The class costs $189 and has 10 modules covering everything from bee biology and plant reproduction to honey bee products and beekeeping equipment. Wyck Historic House and Garden in Germantown also has a free workshop on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. called Beyond the Buzz - Why Bees Matter. For Penn State information, go to http://beekeeping101.psu.edu/; for Wyck, www.wyck.org/.


Eva Monheim is a certified arborist, master floral designer, and fulltime lecturer in horticulture at Temple University Ambler; she is also an instructor at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Contact her at emonheim@temple.edu

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