Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

My Favorite Perennial Mums

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 2004 – 7:09 pm

Last season we tried a new hybrid mum called My Favorite Mum. The My Favorite Mums series is a joint venture of Ball Horticultural Company of West Chicago, Illinois and Anthony Tesselaar International of Melbourne, Australia, both renowned horticultural innovators. 

These mums are bred for hardiness, thriving in the hot humid South as well as the frigid North. Although we have only grown this variety one season we think it is going to be a winner. While probably not replacing the traditional garden mums they do offer a great alternative. 

My Favorite Mums will reach about 12 inches in height and grow to around 16 inches in diameter in the first year. In year two, look for another 2 inches in height and another 6-8 inches in diameter. With ideal growing conditions they will grow not only three feet high but also five feet around. 

These easy to grow and maintain plants produce masses of 2 inch flowers over the entire plant. You can expect over 1,000 flowers the first year and up to 5,000 in the following years. All this without pruning or pinching. On top of this they attract butterflies and are great as a cut flower. 

You can also enjoy the mum in containers on a porch or patio, although, like all perennials, it will not survive the winter out of the ground. This is a great plant to add to existing perennial gardens as you would other mums. It is a great source of replacement color for annual beds that have gone out of bloom. 

The My Favorite Mum is a long bloomer, flowers last 4-5 weeks. They start flowering in Mid-August and continue blooming well into September. Newer flowers generally bloom above older flowers which hides older faded blooms. 

These mums are truly perennial, bred to survive temperatures down to -30 F. A well established plant is the key to keeping My Favorite Mum beautiful. It is best to plant your mum early in the Fall season so it can establish a good root system before winter. 

In the Fall of 2001 ‘Autumn Red’ was introduced with Coral, White, Twilight Pink, and Yellow Quill following in 2002. They are available in pots from area garden retailers, either in bud or bloom. While the selection is somewhat limited we do expect more varieties to be introduced into the market in the coming years. Unfortunately, these mums cannot be sold through catalogs or on line. This is probably the biggest drawback we see to the My Favorite Mum. They are worth the extra effort and we do recommend you give them a try.

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Rudbeckia in the Border Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on September 1, 2004 – 7:16 pm

We find that there are some plants that you just cannot have too many of, in our case it is the Rudbeckia or Black-Eyed Susans. The showy character of this plant make them particularly useful in bold masses, especially around outbuildings, fences, and where unsightly objects are to be hidden. We find that they work particularly well with ornamental grasses and mallows. In some form, Rudbeckia are used in every one of our sunny beds and borders. 

An extremely hardy native of our tall grass prairies, they are both drought and pest resistant. Even the great herds of buffalo, that once roamed the great plains, could not kill this tough critter. Black Eyed Susans not only survived the great prairie fires and “dust bowl” conditions of the 20’s and 30’s but actually expanded their range. 

There are approximately twenty native species, annuals, biennial and perennial varieties, growing in the Midwestern region. Most species like a lean well drained soil in full sun or light shade but will also do well in moist locations. This hardy soul has even been found growing on clay bluffs and limestone ridges of Missouri. 

All varieties of Rudbeckia have golden yellow flowers with a dark, usually raised, central cone. They bloom for 6-8 weeks, beginning in late June. You can prolong the blooming period by deheading or cutting the plant back. Please be sure to stop early enough to allow some of the cones to mature for Winter bird feeding. 

By planting several species, you can have Black-Eyed Susan blooming through late Fall. All Rudbeckia serve admirably as cut flowers, for their stems are long and the flowers long lasting. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds all like these high centered flowers. We use the taller varieties, with Joe Pye Weed, New England Asters, and Mountain Mint in our butterfly gardens. 

Although all but one species can be grown from seed, we find division in early Spring works best. Being such a hardy plant, simply dig up the root ball, cut into sections with a sharp knife or trowel, and replant as we would a hosta. Actually digging up the plant helps to keep them under control for while not invasive they are extremely vigorous. 

Rudbeckias are equally at home on the prairie, in the border garden, for attracting birds and butterflies, or in the formal flower arrangement. We find them growing in the home rock garden or moist country swale. Even fire and wild animals cannot kill this plant. Little wonder why we use it so often in our gardens. 

Here are some of the more popular Rudbeckia that you my wish to try in your garden: 

Rudbeckia fulgida VAR. Sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
It is a compact 2-3 foot selection of Black-Eyed Susan that blooms for 6-8 weeks in mid-to-late summer. Numerous golden yellow ray flowers with black central cones cover this plant in a profusion of color. 

Rudbeckia grandiflora ‘Black-Eyed Susan’
It is a species of the dry prairie, a truly giant Black-Eyed Susan. Long-stalked leaves, hairy stems, robust form and gold daisies with dark eyes are characteristic of the species. Each stem yields a single bloom, but with many, many flowering stems, flowers mature to showy tall cones on 3-4 foot plant. 

Rudbeckia maxima ‘Cabbage Leaf Coneflower’
It is a dramatic Black-Eyed Susan 6-7 foot that adds vertical drama to the natural landscape as well as in the cultivated sunny garden. We grow this Rudbeckia for its eye-catching large, coarse foliage that resembles oversized cabbage leaves. 

Rudbeckia speciosa v. Newmanii ‘Compact Black-Eyed Susan’
It is one of the shortest and latest blooming. Flowers are slightly smaller than most Rudbeckia but abundant on compact 2 foot plants. 

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Three-Lobed or Thin-Leaved Coneflower’
It has small but numerous brown-eyed flowers that appear from late summer through early fall on 3-5 foot plants. It tolerates light shade, poor soils and drought. 

Rudbeckia missouriensis ‘Missouri Coneflower”
It is an attractive, long lived perennial wildflower excellent for cut flowers. It provides natural color when planted in the butterfly or rock garden. Missouri Black-eyed Susan is equally at home in formal flower beds or naturalized in a prairie meadow. 

Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Sweet Black-eyed Susan’
It receives its common names from the flower’s sweet anise scent. Numerous 3 inch flowers consisting of yellow petals around dome-shaped central disks provide nectar for butterflies and seed for Goldfinches. This sweetly scented flower occurs naturally in low meadows, open slopes, stream banks, and prairies. 

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Gold Drop”
It is a free flowering, hardy Black Eyed Susan with double, 2 inch, yellow flowers on 2-3 foot stems. Very attractive used in cut flowers arrangements. 

Some other Rudbeckia worth considering for your garden are: 

  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Irish Eyes’
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Marmalade’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Gloriasa Daisy’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Toto Lemon’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sonora’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’
  • Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’
  • Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’
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Butterfly Gardening

Icon Written by Geoff on June 1, 2004 – 4:55 pm

We have discussed, in past Yard Talks, how rewarding it is to have at least one Butterfly Garden in your landscape. There is just something soothing and peaceful about watching butterflies drifting from flower to flower collecting nectar. What better way to relax after a stressful day than to sit and observe nature at it’s best. In today’s fast paced world, everyone should have a Butterfly Garden. 

Butterfly Gardens are even easy and fun to make. The first step is to take a leisurely stroll through nature to find out just what butterflies live around you. There is no sense spending time trying to attract those that are not natural to the area. Visit a local park or take a drive through the countryside on a sunny day. Keep track of not only what species are found but, their location, such as wet meadows, sunny fields, partial shade, or riverbanks. This will help you not only in deciding what species to try attracting but, where to locate your garden. The Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths is an excellent field guide to take along, small and easy to use. 

You need to also make note of what type of plants the butterflies are flitting around. It also would be very beneficial if you can find the plant species the butterfly’s larva are feeding on. Butterfly larva eat very specific plants and female butterflies will only lay their eggs on these. No eggs mean no larva, that translates into no butterflies. 

Almost everyone knows that the Monarch Butterfly’s larvae (AdultLarvaePupae) feed on the milkweed and the Cabbage Butterfly’s larvae (Adult,LarvaePupae) feed on members of the cabbage family. Lessor known is that the Black Swallowtail’s larva (AdultLarvaePupae) feed only on members of the dill family and that the Zebra Swallowtail’s larvae (AdultLarvaePupae) will only dine on the pawpaw. If you cannot find where the larva are feeding, there are many excellent butterfly books, such as, Barbara Ellis’s excellent book, “Attracting Birds and Butterflies.” 

When providing plants for the larva, remember the purpose of these plants is to be eaten. This means no pesticides or insecticides. In fact, no insecticides should be used anywhere near a butterfly garden and this includes your lawn. You will be amazed how many more butterflies you will see just by eliminating insecticide usage. 

Most butterflies like sunny locations protected from the wind. A sunny area close to a wood line or hedgerow is ideal. A fence can be used also to provide an artificial windbreak. If there is a creek or other water source near by, so much the better. 

If no natural water is close by, we would suggest providing an artificial source for moisture such as birdbath with flat stones, for landing, or a small garden pond. The pond should be shallow, 1-2 inches, with many resting places, and of course no fish. A quick and easy butterfly pond can be made by taking a plastic garbage can lid, inverting it, weight it down with bricks, and fill it with water. 

Butterflies feed on plants high in nectar. We have found species of nepata and eupatorium are excellent sources of nectar. In fact, many of the culinary herbs, such as borage, sage, and the oregano’s can be used in the Butterfly Garden. 

Flowers with short petals, plumes, or flat tops, like most of the sedum’s, are butterfly favorites. Also, butterflies are attracted by bright colors such as red, orange, yellow, and purple. Here some of the annuals such as cosmos, four o’clocks, or cleome are very useful. 

Make sure when you plan your garden you include some creature comforts such as, a comfortable bench or chair. Bring along a good book, such as Grace from the Garden by Debra Landwehr Engle, sit back and feel your cares melt away. Butterfly watching is very relaxing and habit forming.

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Care of Garden Roses as Cut Flowers

Icon Written by Geoff on May 1, 2004 – 7:39 pm

There is no mystical secret in making your fresh cut garden roses last a long time. All it takes is a little planning and preparation on your part. Commercial growers do it every day and so can you. 

The evening before you plan to cut your roses, water them well. This will give the plant more substance and lasting power. Early morning is the best time to cut roses, while the stems and petals are full of water and sugar. 

New rose plants are especially sensitive to the loss of leaves so try to avoid cutting long stems as this weakens the plant. We always try to cut stems back to a five-leaflet bud joint. If you do not cut back this far, a replacement bloom is often not produced. Cutting short stems is particularly important in Late Summer as the plant is then building up reserves to carry it through the Winter. 

Select flowers with petals that are just starting to unfold, when they are just beyond the bud stage, as these will last the longest. Always make a nice, clean cut with sharp pruners, at a 45 degree angle, to reduce damage to the cane. Carefully strip off any leaves that might be submerged in the vase. Be sure not to peel back the skin as this will prevent water absorption. Try to keep the cut stems in water at all times or they will absorb air. This disrupts the flow of nutrients to the flowers and leads to an early death. 

Make sure that the pitcher or vase is clean. Bacterial growth and fungus will prevent the roses from drawing water up the stem just like air. A 5% solution of household bleach and water should be used to disinfect the container. We always follow this with a hot washing in our dishwasher. 

After you have cut your roses, bring them indoors and place them immediately in a large container of lukewarm water. Make a second cut underwater, about an inch up the stem. This prevents air bubbles from plugging the stem, then move the stem quickly from the cutting bowl to the vase. Allow the cut blooms to stand in room temperature for several hours before arranging them for display. 

Soft or distilled water works best as it has very little salt content. The water temperature should be warm to the touch, between 100 and 110 degrees. For best results add a cut flower preservative to the water in the vase. A good floral preservative serves three functions, it kills bacteria, acidifies the water, and it provides sugar. The most common problems when working with floral preservatives is not using enough. Dissolving aspirin in warm water makes an excellent preservative. You can also fight bacteria by immediately removing any flowers that are past their prime. 

Every morning cut the stem back another inch, change the water, and add new preservative. Your cut roses will keep longer out of direct sunlight, drafts, and hot areas, such as around oven, stoves, televisions, and even computers. Following these steps, your roses should easily last 7-10 days!

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.

Planting Under Maples and Other Surface Rooted Trees

Icon Written by Geoff on July 7, 2003 – 5:28 pm

The problem with growing anything under maples and other shallow rooted trees is that they suck up all available water and nutrients. They also form a dense mat which is hard to penetrate with even the toughest gardening tools. On top of this, little light is able to get to the soils surface through the leaf canopy. A good challenge for us shade gardeners. 

Initially, we need to try to turn the soil, removing as much surface roots as possible. This is where a good ax and a sharp mutt come into their own. Take your time, work as deeply as possible. Once you have the majority of their roots removed, fire up your trusty old mantis tiller. This will be hard work and you will have to stop often to clean the tillers tines. 

Once you have the ground broken up you will want to amend it with loads of compost and other good organic stuff. We like to apply double ground wood chips and work in deeply. We follow this with compost and rotted leaf mold. 

Then we go over the area two more times with our tiller, raking out any debris. By now you will have a slightly raised bed over which we apply a 2-3 inch layer of double ground bark. 

Into this lovely stuff, plant your perennials. By the end of the first season, your plantings will have made substantial inroads before the tree roots start growing back. About every 3 to 4 years we dig up the border and remove whatever surface roots we can and replant. We have not noticed the trees objecting to root pruning every few years. 

You can plant under these trees, but it takes more effort than planting somewhere that is not ordinarily full of roots. We do water these areas much more then other garden areas as often little rain fall reaches the soil and what does is usually used by the trees.

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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.

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Climbing Plants for the Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on July 1, 2002 – 6:52 pm

Vines are the most versatile of all garden plants. They are easy to grow, take little care, and are extremely hardy. They can even be successfully used as a ground cover. 

With this said, we should admit, except for one very scrawny Crimson Glory Vine, every vine we have planted has never seen its second birthday. We are not even sure why this vine has hung on this long, after ten years it has not grown an inch. 

In our defense, most vines require a lot of sun that is very scarce in our gardens. We purchased the Crimson Glory Vine after reading how it would climb through the trees to seek the sun on its own. Maybe we were asking to much of it to climb over 150 feet before it saw daylight, a little much for a plant only 18 inches tall. We also tend to stretch a plant’s hardiness, and vines, by there very size, are exposed to a lot of bad things. 

Given the right conditions, sunlight, well-drained humus soil, and the right moisture, vines can be very rewarding. We have seen some very impressive vines in other people’s gardens, enough to keep us trying at least. Here are some that we were impressed with: 

Vitis coignetiae Crimson ‘Glory Vine’
It has 12 x 10 inch leaves that turn a dark crimson color in autumn, This grape is undoubtedly the finest of the true vines, easily reaching the treetops with its showy fall color.

Wisteria sinensis ‘Texas White’
This vigorous Chinese vine is particularly showy with its pendulous white flowers and its vigorous growing habits.

Rosa multiflora platyphylla ‘Seven Sisters’
The two inch blossoms open in bright magenta, then fade through shades of pink. There can be seven different colors showing in one large cluster of blooms. Given time it will easily cover a large support or clamber into trees.

Hydrangea anomala petiolaris ‘Climbing Hydrangea’
Widely acclaimed as the best vine in cultivation. It has outstanding foliage, flowers, and exfoliating, cinnamon-brown bark. Its abundances of white flowers bloom in early summer.

Rubus lambertianus hakonensis ‘Rubus’
A luxuriant climbing or crawling shrub with shiny, light-green, leaves and tiny white flowers.

Ipomoea alba ‘Moon Vine’
A vine with spectacular, five inch white flowers opening in early evening. The tightly furled flower buds unroll rather quickly as if watching a time-lapse film. The pure white, fragrant flowers fairly glow against the dark green, heart-shaped foliage. This vine is very fast growing when the weather is warm and calm.

Passiflora incarnata ‘Passion Flower’
Flowers have purple petals, purple fringes and intricately detailed centers. In the fall, egg-shaped fruit that resembles smooth limes appears.

Lablab purpureus ‘Hyacinth Bean’
An old-fashioned ornamental bean ideal for rambling over fences, posts and porches. Resembling the pole bean of vegetable fame, Hyacinth Bean is highly valued for its prominent stems of lightly fragrant flowers, thrives in heat and tolerates poor soils.

Campsis radicans ‘Trumpet Creeper’
Beautiful trumpet shaped orange flower clusters blooming in July attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Aristolochia tomentosa ‘Hairy Dutchman’s Pipe’
This high-climbing vine with downy, heart-shaped leaves has long pipe-shaped flowers that are yellow with a purple interior.

Polygonum aubertii ‘The Silver Lace Vine’
This vine is a vigorous twining vine with masses of fragrant white flower clusters in August. It can grow 30 feet.

We are sure that there are many more vines worth mentioning such as the clematis, which we will cover in depth in a future Yard Talk, but the above we know performs above average without special care. Often overlooked in the home garden, vines can easily brighten up a dark area. Most of the above and many more can be found at: 

Aesthetic Gardens ( )
Clematis Specialty Nursery ( )
Forest Farms Nursery ( )
Roslyn Nursery ( )

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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.

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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.

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