Heavenly Hyacinths

November 18th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • There’s still time to plant bulbs. Consider putting some in containers so you can enjoy the flowers on your patio or by the front door.
    • Plant snapdragons, pansies and violas for color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper spray. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Tie red raspberry canes to wires; prune to 1 foot above the top wire or wrap the canes around the top wire.

Heavenly Hyacinths

The Hyacinth family is relatively small compared to other bulbs. Native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa, they were made famous by the Dutch in the 18th century. In fact, they became so popular that 2,000 kinds were said to be cultivated in Holland, the chief commercial producer, at that time.

The common, or Dutch, hyacinth has a single dense spike of star-shaped flowers ranging in color from pure white to yellow, salmon, pink, blue, purple, and near red. Colorful as its flowers may be, the true joy of the Dutch hyacinth lies in its delightful, pervading fragrance. Even a few bulbs suffice to instill the garden with a heady scent.

The peculiarities of the soil and climate of Holland are so favorable to the production of hyacinths that Dutch florists have made a specialty of growing them. Virtually all hyacinth bulbs available in this country are imported from Holland.

Plant bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, in a sunny, well-drained area in beds and borders. They are especially appropriate for formal plantings. Plant a few near a doorway so the heady perfume can waft inside each time to door is opened.

For a more informal look, mix hyacinths of various colors with tulips, daffodils, pansies, primroses and other spring-blooming flowers. They make excellent cut flowers.

Few plants are better adapted than the hyacinth for forcing in pots. By starting them in early September, they can be forced into bloom as early as Christmas. To keep up a succession of bloom, others should be potted every few weeks through November.

When planting, the pot should be loosely filled with enough planting medium so the top of the bulbs will be even with the top of the pot. Place 1 hyacinth bulb in a 4-inch pot, 3 bulbs in a 6-inch pot, and as many as possible in larger pots. You can also grow them in hyacinth vases, special glass vases with a pinched neck and bulb-sized “cup” at the top.

Either way, you need to keep them in a cool, dark place (from 35° to 48°F) for 13 weeks to establish roots. Then bring them into the light and they will quickly send up a flower spike and bloom in 2 to 3 weeks. Hyacinths can be planted in the garden after they are finished blooming. Many of them will flower again after 1 to 2 years.

Planted in clumps of single colors or arranged in masses of contrasting colors, they add a bright and happy tone to the garden. Forced for indoor display, they fill the house with a heavenly fragrance.

Gardening by the Moon

November 18th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Clean up the garden by raking leaves and old flower blossoms out from under your shrubs. Roses and camellias especially appreciate this.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.

Gardening by the Moon

Since ancient times, our ancestors have watched the phases of the moon and observed the behavior of seeds and young plants. As they did so, they saw that seeds germinated more quickly when they were planted at certain times. They also saw that some seedlings grew more vigorously than others, and that some crops fared better when planted at certain times than at other times. Years of observation led them to the conclusion that the phases of the moon were responsible for these differences.

Indeed the moon’s position in the sky does appear to influence plant behavior. And for this reason many gardeners plant and garden “by the moon”.

Astrological gardening, as it is called, is an elaborate system involving both the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. As the moon moves around the earth, it passes through each of the 12 constellations of the zodiac every month. “The moon is in Pisces” means that the moon is in the same part of the sky as the constellation Pisces. The moon moves into a new constellation every 2-3 days.

Every gardening task has its optimum time from planting seeds to harvesting crops and killing weeds. For best results, planting, and other garden jobs, should be done when the moon is in the right phase and also in the right constellation for that activity.

The best time for planting above ground crops, like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and spinach, is between the new (dark) moon and the first quarter. The most fertile signs of the zodiac are Cancer, Scorpio, Taurus, Libra or Pisces. So planting these crops will be most successful when the moon is in this phase and in one of these zodiac signs.

Between the first quarter and the full moon, plants with a fruit or pod, like beans, squash and tomatoes, do best. Flower seeds also germinate best at this time, especially in the sign of Libra.

The week following the full moon is a good time to plant bulbs and root crops along with perennials and grape vines. This is also a good time for transplanting, since active root growth is strong. It is also the best time for pruning, especially under the sign of Scorpio.

Between the last quarter and the new moon, activities like weeding, cultivating and pest control can be done during a barren sign like Leo, Virgo, Aquarius and Gemini. It is also a good time for harvesting.

If all this sounds too complicated, that’s because it is a very complex system that has taken hundreds of years to work out. Fortunately though, others have done the work of sorting this out and have put it together in a calendar called “Gardening by the Moon 2011”. It gives you day-by-day suggestions for all your gardening activities based on the cycles of the moon to keep you on track with your gardening jobs.

Get ready for your best gardening year ever by taking advantage of the secrets of gardening by the moon.

Colorful Persimmon Trees

November 18th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Primroses and pansies will add instant color to pots and flower beds. Combine them with bulbs for an extended season of bloom.
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Japanese maples are some of the most colorful trees in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Fragrant hyacinths make a colorful display in a garden bed, or can be grown in pots. They come in red, pink, blue, white and soft pastels. Plant them now for spring flowers.
    • Compost falling leaves to make excellent garden mulch by next season.

Colorful Persimmon Trees

Oriental persimmons are the perfect trees for fruit enthusiasts who have little time for orcharding. They form a perfect umbrella shape without any pruning, are adaptable to a wide range of soils, and they are virtually pest and disease free.

Persimmons are a favorite fruit throughout Asia where they are native. The botanical name, Diospyros, means “fruit of the Gods”. They are prized not only for their fruit but also for their attractiveness as a medium-size ornamental tree.

Because they bloom so late, the blossoms are rarely bothered by late frosts. Fall frosts deepen the color of the fruit. In October or early November they yield a crop of bright red-orange fruit which, if not picked, stay on the tree after the leaves fall. Persimmons put on a brilliant display of autumn color with reddish-yellow leaves and orange fruit.

Although regular watering increases yields, persimmon trees are drought-tolerant and thrive in most well-drained soils. They must have good drainage around the crown of the roots. Trees reach 30 feet tall with broad leaves shading an area 25 feet in diameter.

There are two basic types of persimmons: the astringent varieties, which are real “pucker-producers” and must be allowed to soften before their astringency changes to a rich, sweet flavor; and the non-astringent types that are sweet and firm when ripe. In cool summer areas, where limited heat is available for ripening fruit, non-astringent types are recommended. They are well adapted in most areas around Willits.

Persimmon trees are a little more expensive than the average fruit tree because the propagation is expensive. Fruit trees are propagated by budding, a form of grafting that uses a growth bud rather than a twig to attach the named variety to the rootstock. Not only are persimmons hard to bud, but the buds don’t always take, and sometimes less than 60 percent of the trees survive being dug-up out of the nursery rows where they are grown.

The best known persimmon is the ‘Hachiya’. It is large and acorn-shaped with deep orange skin. Astringent until ripe, the soft red flesh is exceptionally rich and filling. It makes delicious breads, cookies and cobblers. It can be picked while still hard, by cutting the stems with shears, and allowed to ripen indoors.

‘Chocolate’ persimmon has sweet, spicy, firm, brown flesh with superb flavor. It is self-fruitful but astringent until ripe.

There are several non-astringent persimmons available. ‘Fuyu’ persimmon is the most popular. The shiny red, smooth, tomato-shaped fruit is light orange with firm flesh and a delicate, sweet flavor. The fruit can be peeled and eaten like an apple. It is good for baking but best when eaten fresh.

‘Coffee Cake’, pollinated by ‘Fuyu’, and ripening a month earlier, has a unique spicy-sweet flavor that instantly brings to mind hot coffee and cinnamon pastries. Plant the pair for the perfect persimmon experience.

‘Izu’ has large, round fruit that is very sweet, tasty, and non-astringent. It makes a relatively small tree, a good choice for the backyard.