Posts Tagged ‘Flower’

Why Not Try Old Roses?

Icon Written by Geoff on March 1, 2004 – 7:47 pm

After trying to grow Hybrid Tea Roses for over fifteen years we have come to the sad conclusion maybe we should give up. Some years our roses have done very well; but for the most part they have looked pretty sick. One year we even dug them all up and moved them to a different location. 

The next season they did very well. We had finally found the answer to our problems! Well, three years later we are back to the same old up and down pattern. My mother-in-law grows the best Hybrid Tea roses in some of the poorest soil and location we have seen. She uses the same methods (my wife learned from her) that we do. Year after year she has wonderful blooms on strong healthy plants. Ours, for the most part, always looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. 

We hate to admit it, the problem is entirely our fault. Hybrid Tea Roses require a lot of just plain old fashion loving care, translation; “a Lot of Time.” On those rare years when we have time to spend with them they look great, unfortunately this happens rarely. Thus the performance of our Teas is directly related to how busy we are. 

With our busy schedule and many other gardens we just do not have the time to devote to Hybrid Teas. We are sure many rose gardeners have found themselves confronted with this problem. Fortunately for us, we have discovered Old Roses. 

Old Roses are time tested survivors of our mothers and grandmothers gardens. These are the roses found at abandon homesteads or growing wild along roadsides. Many trace their origins to the Old World Roses and were brought over by early immigrants. These old fellows, come in many forms and can be used in many ways. They climb, they ramble, they trail, and they form bushes large and small. We stick them everywhere and just forget about them. 

Yes, we said forget about them! If these roses can survive years of being on their own in the wilds they surely can survive anyone’s garden. If drought, wild animals, and hoards of insects cannot kill them growing in the landscape garden is a piece of cake for them. 

Old Roses are made for today’s busy homeowner. Sure, if you want to fertilize, prune, and water them, go ahead. While they respond well to a little care, they just do not need it. We try to fertilize ours in the Spring and Early Fall, prune after blooming, and water in dry spells. If we miss these times, so what, they just keeping on growing. 

Many old varieties display handsome foliage, flowers in soft pastel colors, and bare attractive hips in the fall. Most are extremely showy, especially when used as a background planting or on hillsides. They also have that true strong rose fragrance that can be smelled from miles away. 

While we have not entirely given up on Hybrid Teas we are close to it. No matter how busy you are you can grow these old varieties too! Give it a try, you will be surprised at the results.

Forcing Branches for an Early Spring

Icon Written by Geoff on February 1, 2003 – 7:03 pm

We really like Winter, to snowshoe and ski through the cleansing blankets of snow. How different our woodlot appears in the stark glow of a Winters moon. I like to run through the powder, falling down once and again to make snow angels on the hillsides. Being an outdoor person Winter is just another time for me to enjoy the wonders of nature. 

Unfortunately, last year I had to have surgery which meant no snowshoeing, skiing, and definitely no snow angels. I suddenly learned why so many people found Winter to be depressing. That was until I rediscovered the refreshing beauty of forcing branches for early Spring bloom. 

I had forgotten just how easy and how much fun forcing can be. Almost any Spring flowering shrub’s branches can be forced to bloom by February. Just grab those pruning sheers and whack off a few healthy branches just loaded with buds. Actually since we are talking about cutting shrubs which normally you baby the rest of the year you should take a little care with the whacking bit. You want to follow normal sound pruning techniques and cut off 16 – 24 inch branches although size does not really matter. 

Bring the branches inside, cut each branch at a slant, and place in a suitable container. Place the container in a cool dark area away from drafts. Change the water every 2-3 days, maintaining the original level. Bloom times will vary with the type of shrub, when the cuttings were taken, and storage conditions but usually is no longer than 3-6 weeks. 

When the flower buds are just opening move the container to your display location. Bright indirect lighting is best. Keep watering to maintain the original level. To prolong blooming move to a cool area at night. You now have a little bit of Spring to chase away the gloom.

Posted in  

Forcing Flowering Bulbs

Icon Written by Geoff on November 1, 2002 – 7:05 pm

Winter, even for those of us that enjoy its beauty, can become rather drab for the home gardener. Although growing houseplants helps, they somehow start to lose their excitement after a while. This is when coaxing spring bulbs to flower indoors in the dead of winter is especially welcome. Bulbs can add color, aroma, and excitement to a home like nothing else. One look at a container of Katie Heath daffodils warms the heart and reminds us that spring is just around the corner. 

Getting bulbs to bloom indoors ahead of schedule is called forcing. Forcing is a process by which plants are stimulated to bloom other than at their normal time. Many spring bulbs can be forced indoors with only a little effort on our part. 

The first step is to select those varieties you wish to force. You will want to select the largest, healthiest bulbs for most flowers. Forced tulips do not bloom quite as well as garden planted tulips because they require a long rooting period but are still better than nothing. 

Some of the easiest varieties to force according to Nancy Anderson, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Agriculture Agent, working as the Urban Horticulture Agent in Cumberland County are: 

  1. Narcissus – Barrett Browning, Bridal Crown, Dutch Master, Ice Follies, Paperwhites, Golden Harvest, Spell Binder, Salome, Pink Charm, Flower Record, Louis Armstrong, Unsurpassable, Tete-a-Tete, Jenny, Barrett Browning, Cheerfulness.
  2. Large-flowering crocus – Pickwick, Rembrance, Flower Record, Perter Pan, Purpurea Grandiflora.
  3. Hyacinth – Amethyst, Blue Jacket, Jan Bros, L’Innocence, Pink Pearl, Delft Blue, Hollyhock, Anna Marie, Violet Pearl, Gypsy Queen, Carnegie.
  4. Muscari – Blue Spike, Early Giant.
  5. Tulip -Apricot Beauty, Bing Crosby, Edith Eddy, Mirjorma, Yokohama, Jingle Bells, Attila, White Dream, Princess Victoria, White Swallow, Estella Rijnveld.

A listing of other suitable bulbs for forcing can be viewed at The Dirt Gardener’s website

Bulbs can be grown in any type of container. The roots are not long so the pot need not be deep. The pot size is important. It should be just large enough to hold all the bulbs without allowing them to touch each other or the sides of the pot. Choose a pot that is at least twice as tall as the bulbs. 

Since bulbs require porous soil and perfect drainage, a mixture of equal parts peat moss, potting soil, sand and vermiculite or perlite works well. Mix thoroughly and moisten with enough water to a damp consistency. Add one teaspoon of 5-10-5 dry slow release fertilizer to every quart of soil mix to give the bulbs an extra boost after flowering. Special bulb fiber may be used in place of potting soil. If you use fiber, place a one inch layer of soil or sand in the bottom of the pot first. Place a few pieces of broken pots or pebbles over the drainage holes, to prevent the soil from running out initially or clogging later. 

Fill the pot with your potting mixture so that each bulb top is even with the top edge of the container. Sprinkle soil around the bulbs until only the shoulders are showing. Plant several bulbs in a container for best display. They should be placed close together, but should not touch each other or the pot. Water the soil and keep it moist. 

Now your bulbs must be “chilled”, this is a period required for most bulbs to develop a strong root system. Begin 15-16 weeks before you want your bulbs to bloom. You need an area where bulbs can be stored at a cold temperature. A cool garage, unheated basement, or even an old refrigerator will do. Beware though that bulbs often do not mix with fruits in enclosed spaces because of the ethylene gas they give off as they ripen. Ethylene gas exposure can cause partial or incomplete flower abortion, retard growth, cause growth abnormalities such as excessive leafiness, shorten the lifespan of cut flowers, and inhibit development of flower buds. 

Place the pots in the area you selected for chilling. Ideally, temperatures should be 35-48 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, set boxes, pots or black garbage bags over your potted bulbs to keep them dark during the cooling period. Turning the pots every day or so keeps the flower stems straight and strong. In a week or two, the stems will elongate and the buds will become plump. 

When the stems are about 2 inches, tall, move the pot to a warm sunny spot to stimulate bloom. Move the pots to a bright, sunny window in the house, where temperatures are near 65 degrees once the foliage and buds are well developed. 

As the flowers begin to open, take the plants out of direct sunlight to prolong the bloom. During flowering, keep the plants in as cool an area as possible to encourage longer blooming. Keep the soil evenly moist and keep out of direct heat or drafts. 

After flowering, cut off the flower stems and place the pots in direct sunlight, keeping the foliage growing until it begins to die back. Hardy bulbs such as hyacinths and tulips cannot be forced again and should be discarded. You can try to plant them outdoors but it may take them a year or two to rebloom. 

Hyacinth, crocus and paperwhite narcissus, can be forced in water. You will have to anchor these bulbs to the bottom with small stones or use special forcing glasses. The glass is short and somewhat hourglass shaped. Keep the vase cool and dark for 3 to 6 weeks or until their roots have developed and the shoots appear. Bring the vase to a bright area where the bulb will flower as with conventional forcing methods. Bulbs that have been forced in water should be discarded after flowering. 

Forced bulbs can bring a little of Spring into your home even during the darkest Winter months. With very little work you can brighten up your home. Containers of forced bulbs also make welcome gifts, particularly during the holiday season.

Posted in  

Aster in the Home Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on June 1, 2002 – 6:29 pm

It would not seem like Fall in our gardens without asters. When little else is blooming the aster comes into its own. They brighten the garden with blooms in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white. The aster produces large clusters of delicate daisy-like flowers, usually with bright yellow centers. They begin blooming in late July and continue until Winter. 

Asters are easy to grow and very versatile. Plant in Spring in any sunny location. They like well-drained fertile soil and will tolerate drought. We plant daffodils, tulips, or other Spring flowering bulbs to fill in before the asters fill out. You can pinch back the tips to promote dense, compact growth and eliminate staking. We prefer not pinching as we prefer the natural clumps they form. 

The aster needs to be divided every three years in the early spring or late fall right after blooming. After digging, divide and replant the sections from outside the clump, discarding the older center portion. Asters are excellent border perennials and go well with Boltonia ‘Snow bank’Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’

Some asters that you must try in your garden are: 

Aster oblongifolius ‘Fanny’s Aster’
This aster has bright purple, daisy-like flowers that are produced late in the season after most asters have finished. This aster has three to four foot branching stems with gray-green leaves spread slightly outward.
Aster dumosus ‘Rose Serenade’
This aster that forms a tidy mound of narrow-leaved foliage reaches 1-2 feet by early fall, when rosy pink blooms cover the plant.
Aster concolor ‘Eastern Silvery Aster’
The plant has oval 1 inch leaves covered in downy white hair that continue to shrink in size as the stems grow, so by fall, the leaves are tiny pressed to the 2-3 foot stems. Purple flowers cover the stems, creating long purple spikes.
Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’
Violet-blue flowers with a golden eye are produced from July to late October by this aster. Monch is one of the best, small asters, that we have tucked throughout our garden.
Aster ‘Miss Bessie’
Hundreds of 1 inch medium purple, starlike blooms cover this plant, weaving with the tops of our ornamental grasses at the entrance to our home. Blooms lasted for three weeks.
Aster macrophyllus ‘Albus’
Albus is a native American Wood Aster with handsome foliage that will spread quickly to make a weed suppressing groundcover. The stems are covered with pure white flowers.
Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’
As early as July blooming aster with rose-pink flowers atop 3-4 foot plants. A real show stopper as a border planting.
Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’
This drought-tolerant native New England Wood Aster, with fuzzy stems and narrow green leaves is topped in the Fall with hundreds of bright purple blooms.
Aster carolinianus ‘Climbing Aster’
If you provide support this aster will definitely climb. Foliage is grayish with narrow leaves with loads of rose-pink flowers. Cut back to the ground every spring.

These, along with Aster tartaricus ‘Jin Dai’, are ones we have come to enjoy in our gardens. While our favorite is Alma Potschke, we have come to love them all. In fact, there are hundreds of others to choose from for your garden. There are even a few asters that bloom in the Spring. For that sunny, dry area asters are hard to beat.

Posted in  

Summer Flowering Bulbs

Icon Written by Geoff on April 1, 2002 – 7:00 pm

As we promised in March’s Yard Talk we will be looking at Summer flowering bulbs this month. In March we discussed Spring flowering bulbs, much of the cultural requirements we discussed then, holds true for Summer flowering bulbs. For our discussion, we are going to group bulbs, corm, rhizome, and tuber together. 

Site selection and preparation is very important. Summer bulbs like good drainage and high organic matter. You can never add too much humus to a bulb growing medium. Try to group bulbs together, or plant in masses and groups, in curves and drifts, or clustered close together. A light mulching helps the bulbs retain moisture and reduces the competitive weeds. 

Some commonly used Summer bulbs are: 

1. Liliaceae Lilium ‘Lily’
Lilies are used in borders, perennial gardens, pots, and containers. Lilies are often used for cut flowers. They like a sunny spot, but will tolerate partial shade. A good online source for lilies is B&D Lilies 

2. Compositae Dahlia ‘Union’
From Summer into Fall this bulb produces two to eight foot plants with flowers up to 14 inches across. They are generally planted directly in the garden in Mid-May in a well-drained sunny location. Plants should be staked at planting time because they will require support for the large flowers. Dahlias must be dug and stored each fall. A good source for dahlias is Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

3. Iridaceae Gladiolus ‘Sword Lily’ 
The gladiolus is used mainly for cut flowers, although it does have a place in the home garden. Their wide range of colors, sizes and flower types make them particularly useful for flower arrangements. Gladiolus flowers are found on exhibit at flower shows and are a specialty of many amateur growers. Columbia View Gladiolus offer an excellent selection for the home gardener. 

Some lesser known Summer bulbs that we have tried are: 

1. Iridaceae Tigridia ‘Tiger Flower’
This bulbs’ foliage is similar to the daylily, it produces several flowers per stalk and each separate flower blooms for just one day. Like dahlias they bloom from Mid-Summer into Fall in shades of white, cream, yellow, pink, and red. Plant in a sunny location along walks or as borders. Tigridia must be dug and stored each fall. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs offers this unusual bulb. 

2. Amaryllidaceae Sternbergia ‘Autumn Daffodil’
The Autumn Daffodil is a terrific bulb to use in naturalizing. They have bright yellow, crocus-like flowers that pops up out of nowhere. Grow in partial shade for autumn color. These bulbs must be dug and stored each fall. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs also offer this selection. 

3. Liliaceae Eucomis ‘Pineapple Plant’
The flower is a spike of masses of little flowers with a rosette of green leaves on top. Eucomis blooms best in full sun from July through August. It is often used in container gardening. Eucomis must be dug and stored each fall. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs also carry this bulb. 

4. Ranunculaceae Anemone coronaria ‘Windflower’
This blue, red, white, and pink blooming bulb flowers from May to September. It likes a partially shaded location. This bulb must also be dug and stored each fall. Most good online bulb companies such as Brent and Becky’s Bulbs carry this Summer bulb. 

5. Cannaceae Canna
Canna lilies are native plants in the United States. Flowers come in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange and cream. The planting site should be well drained and in full sun. Once frost has killed the canna tops, cut off the dead tops and dig bulbs. They must be stored in a cool dry place. Aaron’s Amaryllis & Canna Bulb Farm Nursery offers some of the best bulbs we have seen. 

Some additional Summer blooming bulbs worth looking at are:

Achimenes Globba Polianthes
Alocasia Gloriosa Sandersonia
Amaryllis Habranthus Sauromatum
Bletilla Hedychium Scadoxus
Bloomeria Hemerocallis Sparaxis
Caladium Hippeastrum Sprekelia
Canna Hymenocallis Triteleia
Chlidanthus Incarvillea Tritonia
Colocasia Ixia Tropaeolum
Commelina Leucocoryne Tulbaghia
Convallaria Liatris Veltheimia
Crinum Lycoris Zantedeschia
Crocosmia Nerine Zephyranthes
Cyrtanthus Oxalis  
Galtonia Pleione  

We did not discuss daylillies, although a beautiful Summer bulb, as this was covered in a Past Yard Talk. We enjoy growing daylilies and other Summer bulbs in our gardens. Summer bulbs add a lot of interest to the landscape. They offer not only bright flowering blooms but unusual shapes and textures. We encourage you to try them, particularly some of the lessor known bulbs.

Posted in  

Flowering Bulbs

Icon Written by Geoff on March 1, 2002 – 6:57 pm

This month we are taking a look at flowering bulbs. While this is usually a topic for the Fall, we decided, for several reasons, to discuss them this Spring season. First of all, site selection and preparation is much easier now than when your new bulbs and Winter is just around the corner. Spring is also a time when you can get a good overall look at all your garden plants and how they look together. 

If you are like us, we make our bulb selections in the Spring. When they arrive in the Fall, there is always a few varieties that we cannot remember where we planned on using them. So, we rush out and just stick them in the ground, not always to the best effect. We have even been known to start planting bulbs only to discover the space is already occupied. In the Spring you can also see where you already have bulbs growing. How much easier Fall planting is when you have the site selected, soil prepared, and the design laid out. 

While we are primarily talking about Spring bulbs, much also holds true for Summer flowering bulbs. These often overlooked bulbs that are planted in the Spring, have much the same cultural requirements as their Spring cousins. Unfortunately, many Summer flowering varieties must be dug up in the Fall. For our discussion, we are going to group bulbs, corm, rhizome, and tuber together. Thus, we will treat daffodils, a bulb, the same as crocuses although they actually are a corm. The most important decision you must make is where to plant your bulbs. You want a site with appropriate sunlight. Tulips and narcissi prefer full sunlight or filtered sunlight for optimum coloration and prolonged flowering periods. Since deciduous trees will not be leafed out in the spring when the bulbs are growing, it is usually all right to plant bulbs under them. 

Bulbs will not grow in an area with poor water drainage. You cannot add enough compost or other organic matter to your selected area. For clay soil, add sand or peat moss. For sandy soil, add peat moss or aged leaf compost. Since bulbs prefer neutral pH soil, go easy on the peat moss. While adding “hot” manure such as mushroom compost to your bulb beds in the Fall this is not recommended, it is not a problem for Spring prepared beds. Work the compost in as deep as possible remember many large bulbs such as daffodils and alliums are planted once and enjoyed for many years. 

Design your planting to get the most effect, try to group bulbs together, or planting in masses and groups, in curves and drifts, or clustered close together. At least avoid straight lines and skimpy placement. We never plant less then 12 of any one variety in a group. By all means put the bulbs where you and your neighbors can see them. Consider height and time of bloom. Bulbs are identified in all good catalogues by bloom-time, generally early, mid, and late bloomers. Plant some of each for a continuous color display. Also, match bulb bloom with the early flowering perennials such as pulmonarias, epimedium, and creeping phlox. Foliage plants such as hostas work well with bulbs and serve to fill in once the foliage start to go dormant. 

Naturalizing with bulbs is a popular planting technique used to achieve a natural, as if nature had planted them. Most of the small bulbs such as crocus and snowdrops naturalizing well. Even many larger bulbs like daffodils naturalize well in open areas, at the edge of woodlands, or on the slope of your lawn. Siberian squill, whose foliage matures fast, are the best for naturalizing in lawns. The simplest method of naturalizing is to scatter bulbs across the area and plant them where they fall. 

Bulb selection is important too. Some Spring flowering bulbs to consider are: 

Allium Anemone Arum Bellevalia
Brimeura Bulbocodium Calochortus Camassia
Chionodoxa Colchicum Corydalis Crocus-Fall
Crocus-Spring Dactylorhiza Dichelostemma Eremurus
Erythronium Freesia Fritillaria Galanthus
Geranium Gladiolus Hemerocallis Hermodactylus
Hippeastrum Hyacinthoides Hyacinthus Ipheion
Lachenalia Leucojum Lycoris Muscari
Narcissus Ornithogalum Oxalis Paeonia
Pancratium Puschkinia Rhodophiala Scilla
Sternbergia Triteleia Tulip  

While you might not be familiar with many of these, they all have their special garden uses and are well worth trying. 

Some Summer blooming bulbs worth looking at are: 

Achimenes Alocasia Amaryllis Anemone
Bletilla Bloomeria Caladium Canna
Chlidanthus Colocasia Commelina Convallaria
Crinum Crocosmia Cyrtanthus Dahlia
Eucomis Galtonia Gladiolus Globba
Gloriosa Habranthus Hedychium Hemerocallis
Hippeastrum Hymenocallis Incarvillea Ixia
Leucocoryne Liatris Lilium Lycoris
Nerine Oxalis Pleione Polianthes
Sandersonia Sauromatum Scadoxus Schizostylis
Sparaxis Sprekelia Sternbergia Tigridia
Triteleia Tritonia Tropaeolum Tulbaghia
Veltheimia Zantedeschia Zephyranthes  

An excellent source for heirloom or hard to find bulbs is Old House Gardens. While Odyssey Bulbs a new company in Berrien Springs, Michigan claims their mission is to “fill a void in America’s gardens by providing bulbs that have escaped the attention of mainstream horticulture businesses.” While we have not used either company yet, we plan to give them a try this year. 

Plant bulbs with the pointed end up, if you are not sure, plant the bulb on its side. Do not plant bulbs shallow, follow the instructions for planting that came with your bulbs. Generally, planting depth should be roughly three times the width of the bulb. If planting many bulbs, cover each grouping with a light layer compost and apply a bulb fertilizer such as Scott’s Bulb Food. Water in the bulbs thoroughly after planting. This will help you keep track of where you have already planted and get the bulbs off to a good start. Do not apply top mulch until after the ground freezes! Mulch should not be more than about two inches thick. 

Once planted, bulbs are very easy to care for, whether in beds or naturalized. You need only apply bulb fertilizer when the sprouts first poke through the soil, when the flower dies back, and in the fall before the soil freezes. The most critical point in caring for your bulbs is to allow the foliage to mature naturally. The leaves are the bulbs’ principle source of energy for the next year’s bloom, removing them literally starves the bulb. When daffodils become overcrowded, dig them up with a fork, divide them and replant. 

We recently read in McClure & Zimmerman Newsletter of January 9, 2002 an excerpt from the preface of “Bulbs and Tuberous Rooted Plants” written by C. L. Allen, published in 1899 that we would like to pass on to you: 

“The flowering of bulbs is a very simple matter. The bulb, when it comes from the hands of the grower, contains within itself the food for the future flower, and it does not require the gardeners’ skill to develop it. The growing of bulbs has advantages over that of any other class of flowering plants; among others, and a very great one, is that many of them produce their flowers in early spring, at a season when few other plants are in blossom, and yet when flowers are doubly valuable for their rarity. At this season, in a sheltered, sunny spot, a few clumps of Snowdrops, Crocus and Scillas will present a mass of color, in graceful forms, while the snow yet lingers in shaded places; before these are gone, Hyacinths refresh us with their grateful fragrance; these are soon followed by the Narcissus and showy tulips, and all before other vegetation is fairly started. In rapid succession follow the Crown-Imperials, the Iris, and, before these are gone, the Gladiolus and Lilies commence. Another advantage that bulbs possess is their long period of rest, which leaves the ground, half the year, free for other plants…..No other plants are so easy to manage, none more showy, and none succeed as well under all circumstances, as the different classes of bulbs and tuberous-rooted plants.”

How little has changed over the years and how much we continue to enjoy bulbs whether they are Spring or Summer blooming. In future issues of Yard Talk we will discuss in more detail Summer Flowering Bulbs and forcing of bulbs for Winter enjoyment.

Posted in  

Rose Care for Zone 5

Icon Written by Geoff on January 1, 2001 – 7:48 pm

Planting a New Rose

For roses in a box:
if the dirt around the rose is wet enough to stay around the rose remove box. If it is too dry plant the rose with it still in the box. Dig a hole deep enough for the crown of the rose to be about 2 inches below the dirt. Put the rose or the box in the hole and fill halfway with dirt. Compact the dirt, I usually use my foot to do this. Fill the rest of the hole with water. Once the water is gone I put a hand full of Bone Meal around the rose. Put the rest of the dirt around the rose and compact it again. At this point I add a capfull of Systemic and scrape it into the dirt. Add water. Then pile dirt around the plant for a couple of weeks. Carefully remove the dirt that you piled around it after two weeks and it should have some new shoots growing. 

For a bare root rose:
Dig hole the same but at the bottom of the hole add peat and dirt and form a cone and set the rose on that and distribute the roots evenly around the cone. Proceed as with a rose in a box. This is the only time I add bone meal or systemic during the season.

Spring Care

On already established roses, after carefully removing the dirt so that you don’t break off any new shoots, dig three little holes around the roses and add one handful of Bone Meal distributed evenly in the three holes. Cover holes. Add a capful of systemic around the top and scratch into soil. This is after you have removed the dirt and cut off bad stems.

Growing Season Care

I spay them about every 10 days with Orthenex Insect and Disease Control to prevent bugs and black spot. In between the ten days I spay them with Miracle-Gro Fertilizer. There is also a bloom builder that I spray them with. This can be done at the same time as the fertilizer. When you cut off the dead roses they should be cut at a diagonal just above the second five leafed stem. Make sure you put tar on the cut you make or bugs will bore down into the cut and kill the stem.

Fall Care

Somewhere between mid October to end of October, I have been out the first week of November in the snow doing this, cut back all stems to about a foot tall. Pile dirt with peat mixed in around the rose until the dirt is about six to eight inches up the rose. Then forget about them till spring.

The Polmonaria

Icon Written by Geoff on September 1, 2000 – 7:14 pm

There are more than twelve species of Pulmonaria which are a member of the Borage family. Polmonaria, also called lungworts, Bethlehem sage, and cowslip are a nice group of plants for the semi shady garden. The leaves are simple, large, hairy, and green with a few species spotted. They like moist soil but, do very well in average garden soil. Most are fast growers and some species are evergreen although most are deciduous. 

Polmonaria flower in early spring, soon after the snow disappears. Stems arise from the top of the plant that may still have green leaves after winter. Most plants have funnel shaped flowers with somewhat flaring mouths. Flower colors can be red, blue, white or violet. Some species have pink flower buds and come out as reddish – violet turning blue as they age. Flowers close at night and open again in the morning. 

New leaves begin to grow after the first flowers open. Roots are white and thickly fibrous. Pulmonaria should be planted in a somewhat shady area, they do very well under maple trees. They do not like hot, intense heat and light of the summer sun. Polmonaria are not good in hot, humid climates because they will go dormant. Even here, though, these hardy plants begin to grow again in late summer or early fall, when the temperature is cooler. They will suffer from mildew under these conditions. 

Pulmonaria are a valuable shade to partial shade plant with early spring flowers and attractive rosettes of basal leaves. In their native environments, the lungworts grow on a wide range of soils from acid to alkaline, dry to wet, sunny to shady, along streams and in mountains. 

Lungworts make great ground covers when grown well. Working well with solomon seal, astilbe, epimedium, or hostas. Here are some good Polmonaria to start with: 

P. angustifolia Azurea: Lance-shaped green leaves and wonderful blue flowers. 

P. angustifolia Blaues Meer: Lance-shaped green leaves with dark blue flowers. 

P. longifolia Little Blue: Masses of small blue flowers, tall-lanced shaped spotted leaves. 

P. longifolia ssp. cevennensis: Leaves to 26″ with spotting of silver; cobalt-blue flowers 

P. longifolia Bertram Anderson: Violet-blue spring blooms, narrow spotted leaves. 

P. longifolia Roy Davidson: Green foliage spotted with silver blotches; sky blue flowers. 

P. mollis Somibor: Large green leaves with white blotches; flowers of purplish-pink. 

P. officinalis Blue Mist: Sky blue flowers above lightly spotted leaves. One of first to bloom. 

P. rubra Redstart: Medium green leaves with coral red flowers; vigorous. 

P. rubra David Ward: Leaves of mint-green edged in white with coral flowers. 

P. saccharata Barfields Pink: Velvety deep green leaves; pink flowers with white stripes. 

P. saccharata Janet Fisk: Nice white marbling on leaf; pink flowers turn blue as they age. 

P. saccharata Mrs. Kittle: Dark green leaves with silver marbled effect; rose-pink flowers. 

P. saccharata Mrs Moon: Green leaf with silver spots; pink flowers fade to blue. 

P. saccharata Sissinghurst White: Pure white flowers with green highly spotted leaves. 

P. saccharata Margery Fish: Bright green leaf with silver-gray overlay; red-violet flowers. 

P. x Apple Frost: A silver applique over apple green leaves; rose colored flowers. 

P. x Berries and Cream: Foliage is undulating and silvery; raspberry pink flowers. 

P. x British Sterling: Green margin around shiny silver center on leaves; dark blue flowers. 

P. x Cotton: Cool leaves that are entirely silvered and wonderful blue flowers. 

P. x DeVroomen’s Pride: Near white foliage, green edge; blue flowers fade to pink. 

P. x Excalibur: Silver leaves edged in dark green; rose to wine colored flowers. 

P. x Majesty: Wonderful new introduction–leaves are silver-gray with a very narrow green margin. Blue-pink flowers. 

P. x Paul Aden: A vigorous grower with nicely spotted leaves; pink and blue flowers. 

P. x Milky Way: Huge lance-shaped heavily spotted leaves and blue blooms that fade to wine-pink. 

P. x Purple Haze: Light foggy purple flowers cover a tight mound of well-spotted foliage. 

P. x Raspberry Splash: Dusky raspberry-rose flowers with strongly marked, pointed leaves. 

P. x Spilled Milk: Very compact with extremely silvered leaves; pink flowers. 

P. x Victorian Brooch: Attractive oval silver spotted leaves, upright and outfacing gorgeous magenta-coral flowers with ruby-red calyces. 

P. x White Wings: Pure white flowers, very vigorous with spotted leaves; mildew resistant.

Posted in  

Use of Wildflowers in the Home Landscape

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 2000 – 7:25 pm

Wildflower Gardening is increasing in popularity as gardeners have discovered just how versatile our native plants can be. Wildflowers are finding their way into the home landscape. They are being used increasingly in those hard to mow areas such as septic fields and detention basins. Some homeowners are turning to wildflowers in place of lawns or to reduce lawn areas as a means of reducing maintenance costs. 

Successful wildflower gardening requires careful planning. Site selection is the first and most important decision you must make. Most wildflowers like full sun, at least eight hours. This usually means not a north facing slope. During germination and seedling development you will want a site that can be easily watered. Avoid sites that have a history of heavy weed growth. If you must plant close to open fields, it is best to have a five – ten foot mowed buffer zone to keep weeds and woody plants from migrating into your wildflower garden. You will also want to avoid sites that are barren, if weeds will not grow probably neither will flowers. Damp, heavily compacted, or poorly drained soils usually make poor locations. Also, moist areas accumulate a lot of weed seeds as water drains through them. Since many wildflowers and grasses benefit from periodic burning, you want an area where this can be done safely. 

Site preparation can take up to one year using a combination of cultivation and herbicide applications to eliminate existing growth, roots, and weed seeds. Begin by mowing the area to remove as much growth as possible. Apply three applications of Roundup throughout the season beginning in early spring into fall. This allows you to kill any late germinating seeds. In the following spring we apply a final treatment of Roundup, wait 7-10 days and lightly till the soil. Do not cultivate any deeper than one inch as this will only bring additional weed seeds to the top. Plant the area immediately. 

We recommend using nothing less then 97% pure seeds. Also, avoid those packaged seeds found on most seed racks. We suggest purchasing your seeds from nurseries such as The Prairie Nursery or Wildseed Farms, both offer mixes that cover almost all growing conditions. Select a variety of wildflowers including some of our native grasses. You want to have a variety, not only for color but, to maintain bio-diversity. A good all purpose wildflower mix is one containing the following seeds or plants: 

– New England Wood Aster, Milkweed, Branched Coneflower, Culver’s Root, Wild Senna, Prairie Blazingstar, Black-eyed Susan, Joe Pye Weed, Boneset, Wild Iris, Pale Indian Plantain, Tall Coreopsis, Sawtooth Sunflower, Ox-eye Sunflower, Bergamot, Purple Coneflower, Goldenrod, Angelica, Great Blue Lobelia, Ironweed, Prairie Dock. 

Prairie Grasses 
– Big Bluestem, Bluejoint Grass, Canada Wild Rye. 

Provide plants that occupy different parts of the soil to insure that the wildflowers will squeeze out competing weeds. If the area is small, consider using plants instead of seeding. An important point to remember is that wildflower seeds are not hybridized like modern garden seeds to germinate quickly. 

Once the site is selected, prepared, and the seed chosen, it is time for planting. Unless the area is very big, hand broadcasting works best. Mix the wildflowers seeds into a carrier medium such as damp sawdust or peat–one bushel of carrier per thousand square feet of planting areas. Once thoroughly mixed, divide the blend in half and broadcast first one direction and then the other. Lightly rake and then roll the planted area. Most wildflower seeds need good soil contact to germinate. 

Lightly mulching the area with weed free straw will help keep the areas moist and increase germination. Avoid the temptation to use hay as it contains many weed seeds. The straw should be chopped and blown into the area for best results. 

Water every other day for the first few months after planting and then only during periods of drought. Over watering can be harmful as it promotes diseases. 

Wildflowers and grasses grow slowly so, for the first year or two, some weeding, either mechanical or chemical will be required. Since most weeds will grow faster than wildflowers, periodic mowing at six inches monthly will help control weeds the first year. Use a rotary mower or weedeater depending on the size of the area. Pulling weeds by hand is not recommended as you can easily harm the tender wildflower plants. If weeds continue to be a problem the second season, the area can be mowed again in late spring. 

Most wildflower areas will benefit from periodic burning. We recommend that whenever possible, a regular schedule of burning be carried out. Large wildflower areas should be divided into sections and rotationally burned annually. This method insures bio-diversity, protects over wintering insects, and often easier to control during burning. 

Wildfowers have a place in the garden but, do not expect to buy a packet of seeds at the corner drugstore, sprinkle them around, and magically have a field of flowers. It just does not work this way. With a little planning and some up-front work, you can have something that will last for years with little maintenance. The butterflies and birds will love you too.

Posted in  

The Daylily

Icon Written by Geoff on July 1, 2000 – 6:55 pm

Daylilies are extremely long living almost pest-free perennials native to the Orient. They are very drought tolerant and will grow in almost any soil. These perennials require little cultivation since their foliage shade out most weeds. Although they will benefit from being lifted and divided, this is not essential. Some, in fact, grow so vigorously that they can be hard to get rid of. 

My first exposure to daylilies was as a youngster traveling North to our summer cabin. This was in the days before the super highway system and we had to travel the “back roads.” These country roads would be lined with bright orange flowers during the summer months. I soon learned that these were daylilies that had escaped cultivation from the gardens of the early pioneer setters. Nothing was left of the early farms but their flowers and an occasional apple tree. 

Today daylilies come in all color except blue . Flowers range in size from two to ten inches, held high on a slender stalk one to four feet in the air. The typical dayliliy bloom has six petals although more doubles or multi-petalled varieties are becoming available. Each flower lasts but one day but is soon replaced by another. A mature plant will have several flower stalks with many flowers opening at once. Once flowering begins, it will continue for several months. With the many varieties now available, it is possible to have blooming daylilies from late spring through autumn. 

Most of our daylilies are diploid with 22 chromosomes although we are seeing more polyploid. Tetraploid, those with 44 chromosomes, has a number if advantages over species daylilies: 

  1. Flowers are much bigger.
  2. More intense colors and brightness.
  3. Flower stalks are longer and stronger.
  4. Flowers and leaves are sturdier.
  5. Increased vigor.

There are a great many new polyploid varieties today to choose from. Every year exciting new tetraploids are being introduced. There are more than 35,000 named varietiesregistered with the American Hemerocallis Society . 

The roots of the daylily vary by species, some are long and slender while others are large and tuber like. No matter the shape, daylily roots are a combination of fine hairy and fleshy finger like growths. They prefer light loamy soil in full sun although, they will grow almost anywhere. A good mulching and a light fertilizer application can be beneficial. Daylilies are drought tolerant but thrive with frequent watering. 

Daylily foliage is grass like in shades of light green. This fan like growth is usually two feet in height with the plants forming clumps. The occasional division of these clumps will improve blooming. Applying too much fertilizer will increase foliage size at the expense of blooming. A good description of the parts of a daylily can be found at The Friends of the Daylily Web Site. 

We consider daylilies one of the easiest perennials to grow. Many gardeners plant daylilies and forget them. They just sit back and enjoy the summer blooms. This is an excellent plant for around out buildings, along lanes, or bordering railroad tracks.

Posted in