Paint your garden with tulips

October 19th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
    • Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from hard-neck, soft-neck or Elephant garlic varieties now available.
    • Plant cover crops in the garden where summer plants have finished. Fava beans and crimson clover will grow through the winter and improve your soil for spring planting.
    • Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is still warm.
    • Wildflower seed broadcast with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.

Paint your garden with tulips

There’s magic in tulips. Their sleek brown bulbs hide a rainbow of beautiful flowers which are yours for the planting. Whether it’s bright reds and yellows that you love, or pretty pastel pinks and purples, you can design a palette of their gorgeous colors by planting the bulbs this fall.

Tulips require three or four months of cold during the winter before they will bloom. In Willits, this is no problem: just plant the bulbs in the fall and they will be ready to bloom next April and May. In milder climates, and to force into bloom indoors, you have to refrigerate them for 14 to 17 weeks before they will be ready to bloom.

Plant a succession of tulip varieties and colors for six weeks of spring flowers. Begin with Fosteriana tulips, commonly known as Emperor tulips. They have large, velvety flowers on 16-inch stems. Brighten your border with ‘White Emperor,’ a perfect white tulip.

Single Early tulips come in bright colors with egg-shaped blooms. ‘Yokahama’ has golden, sunshine-yellow petals that bloom over a long season.

Next come the Triumph tulips with their traditional tulip shape and strong stems. The tall and graceful ‘Blue Beauty’ is a purple/pink bicolor with a traditional tulip flower shape. ‘Negrita’ has dark burgundy, upright flower cups on 18-inch stems and ‘Orange Cassini’ has delicate red-orange blooms that give off a gentle fragrance.

Darwin Hybrids flower in mid-season with long-lasting flowers on strong stems that make them perfect for bedding and for cutting. Look for the bright ‘Oxford,’ with scarlet red flowers blushed with purple, ‘Golden Apeldoorn,’ which has a primrose yellow exterior and a golden yellow inside, and ‘Van Eijk,’ with vibrant, dark pink blooms.

End the season with the Double Late tulip, ‘Upstar.’ With its soft, rose pink, ruffled, peony-like flowers, it will bring an elegant close to the tulip season.

Tulips need sunshine when they are in bloom. If they are in a shady area, they will lean toward the light on elongated stems. It’s fine to plant bulbs under deciduous trees if the trees won’t leaf out until after the blooming season ends.

Plant tulip bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep, putting some bone meal at the bottom of the hole. As soon as the flowers have faded, cut them off so that the bulb will store up energy for next season rather that putting that energy into producing a seed pod. Leave the foliage and stems until they die down naturally.

Tulips can easily be grown in containers. Use potting soil and add bone meal or bulb fertilizer. Set the bulbs close together and barely cover them with soil. Set the containers in a cool place out of direct sunshine. Sun will warm the soil and make the bulbs bloom before they have developed an adequate root system. Keep them in a cool place for 3 or 4 months then, when the shoots appear, move pots to a place with light shade. When buds appear, move pots where you can enjoy their beautiful blooms to the fullest.

Fall is the time to plant tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs for a splendid show next spring.

Using Native Shrubs in the Landscape

October 19th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Holland flower bulbs are now available for fall planting. These lovely gems will bloom for you next spring.
    • Protect the pond from the worst of the leaf fall with a fine-mesh net over the surface of the pond.
    • Fragrant Paperwhite narcissus will bloom indoors by Thanksgiving if planted now in rocks and water.
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Garlic should be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from Early White, Late Pink, Spanish Roja or Elephant Garlic.

Using Native Shrubs in the Landscape

Our climate here in Willits consists of cold, wet winters and hot dry summers. As every gardener knows, this is a very challenging place to garden. However, there are a number of plants that are native to California and accustomed to this extreme climate that will grow here with minimal care.

One of the best known natives is Manzanita, or Arctostaphylos. This plant comes in many different forms from large shrubs down to low-growing ground covers. The ground cover plants are fast-growing and make a rich green mat, 6 to 12 feet across. Their pretty pink bell-shaped flowers hang from the ends of the branches in spring.The low-growing ‘Emerald Carpet’ is a particularly fine plant with a dense, spreading habit and pleasing flowers in the spring.

Bush Anemone, or Carpenteria, is a large, evergreen shrub with attractive leaves and showy, fragrant white flowers up to 3 inches across in early summer. They can be used as a specimen or in groupings, and will grow well under native trees.

Ceanothus, or California Wild Lilac, is well-known for its display of rich blue flowers each spring. (Actually the variety that is native to this area has white flowers.) With its dark green foliage, varieties such as ‘Dark Star’ grow 5 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Ceanothus ‘Concha’ makes a handsome 4-ft. round shrub with bright, cobalt-blue flowers. ‘Yankee Point’ is lower growing to 2 feet high and 10 feet wide. It covers the ground quickly. Plant them where they have room to grow.

Heteromeles is known as Toyon or Christmas Berry. This large shrub can grow 6 to 10 feet tall and as wide. It makes a find background or screening plant and the berried branches can be used for winter decorations.

There are two kinds of Ribes that are useful landscape plants in partial shade. The Pink Flowering Currant is a deciduous shrub to 6 feet or taller. It has attractive pink flowers in 6-inch-long clusters in March. Hummingbirds love the flowers. It is drought tolerant but grows faster with some summer watering.

Evergreen Currant makes a fine, shrubby ground cover in dry, shady areas. It grows 2–3 ft. high and can spread to 8 feet wide with glossy, dark green leaves. It works very well under native oak trees.

White sage, Salvia apiana, is a 5-foot shrub with soft grey leaves. The flowers emerge in summer and are white with a little lavender. It is a fine shrub for hot, dry banks and needs no summer water once established. Use it to make your own smudge-sticks. It has many medicinal and sacred uses.

When planted in the fall, native shrubs will become established over the winter and be able to withstand considerable drought by next summer.

Spring Miracles

October 19th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • If you have dogwood, walnut, birch or maple trees that need pruning, now is the time to do it because they will not bleed sap when pruned in the fall.
    • Naked lady amaryllis have lovely, fragrant pink flowers that bloom in late summer with little or no care. Plant the bulbs, available at local nurseries, now.
    • Divide overgrown water lilies and irises. Repot using heavy soil with no organic matter or packaged Aquatic Planting Medium.
    • Fall is for Planting! Trees, shrubs, lawns, ground covers and bulbs get a jump on spring if you plant them now.

Spring Miracles

Spring-flowering bulbs are such a welcome sight when they begin blooming in early February. But although these bulbs produce their flowers in the spring, they must be planted in the fall. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocus and fragrant narcissus bulbs must be planted now so you can enjoy their profusion of color next spring.

Plant bulbs in borders, or tuck them in amongst your shrubs for colorful accents. Using tulips, daffodils or hyacinths, plant 6–12 bulbs of one variety in a grouping for outstanding color effects. With some planning it is possible to enjoy their beauty and color from January to May.

Crocus offer some of the finest early spring color. Dutch Crocus have large flowers and begin blooming in late February. Colors range from white, lavender, purple and yellow to striped white and lavender. They grow to only 4–6 inches tall and are effective in borders and groupings, and they come back year after year.

The bright yellows, whites, and pinks of Daffodils are outstanding in the garden or on the hillside. When used among evergreens, in naturalized plantings or in combinations with crocus, they are truly outstanding. They are extremely easy to grow, requiring very little care after planting, and they multiply and bloom again each spring. As a bonus, deer and rodents don’t eat daffodil bulbs.

Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus can be grown indoors or out in the garden. They come up very early and can be forced to bloom by Christmas. The large clusters of pure white flowers will scent the whole room.

Hyacinths add beauty and fragrance to the garden. Their sweet, penetrating scent wafts through the garden on even the faintest breeze. Hyacinths look best when planted in clusters toward the front of a border. They are also wonderful in containers, so you can enjoy them near the entry area or indoors where they will perfume the entire room.

Tulips are among the most popular spring flowers of all time. They they come in an incredible variety of colors, heights, and flower shapes. Plant them in borders, in rock gardens, or in containers. Most tulips bloom well for only one or two years. So you will probably want to dig up the bulbs and put in new ones after two years. However, Darwin Hybrids and Emperor Tulips will come back looking great year after year. There is a variety to match every color in the spectrum.

There are a number of low growing early spring bulbs make great companions in the flower bed or under spring-flowering shrubs. The little blue flowers of Chionodoxa, “Glory of the Snow”, and Muscari, “Grape Hyacinths”, make a carpet of blues as they naturalize and spread. Iris reticulata has large, fragrant flowers on dwarf plants and Puschkinia has little tiny star-shaped flowers in palest blue clumped on one stem. Use these smaller bulbs for little spring blankets under trees and in the grass.

Look forward to the beauty of spring and the miracle of flowering bulbs.