» Archive for May, 2009

Happy Mother’s Day

Friday, May 8th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Mother’s Day is the perfect time to give a living plant as a gift. Rhododendrons, lilacs, hanging fuchsias and ivy geraniums are sure to please her.
    • Beautiful African Violets will decorate your indoor spaces with their masses of flowers in all shades of purple, blue and pink.
    • Flower seeds can be sown directly in the garden now. Cosmos, nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias will give you beautiful flowers all summer.
    • Plant an herb garden in a container near the kitchen door for convenient fresh spices like basil, oregano, parsley and thyme.
    • When you plant your vegetable garden, why not grow a little extra to donate to the food bank this summer.

Clematis: Queen of the Vines

Clematis are the aristocrats of the flowering vines. With over 300 species and many hybrids, this group of mostly woody, climbing vines has a lot to offer the gardener.

Their flowers span the color spectrum. The large-flowered cultivars range in color from rich reds, purples, and blues to pale pink and white. The smaller flowered “montana” varieties cover themselves with masses of pink or white fragrant blooms early in the season. And the evergreen clematis, with its profusion of starry-white blooms, carries a heavy fragrance.

There is a clematis to enhance any garden, no matter how large or small. Some varieties, if left to wander, will easily grow to 30 feet, while others mature at 6 to 8 feet. Many hybrid varieties mature at 8 to 12 feet, and are stunning on a fan trellis.

Clematis do not climb by tendrils, but instead by gently twining their leaf petioles around nearby supports, including plant stems, branches, wires, small poles and themselves. They do not cling to walls and, without support, will ramble until they find something suitable to climb on. In the wild, clematis are often found growing at the woods’ edge, where their tops can reach full sun and their roots remain in the shade.

Selecting the right place for clematis is important for its success. Clematis thrive where the vines receive sun for at least six hours a day with cool, moist soil for the roots. Morning sun is preferable. Plant vines in the shade of a small shrub or plant a groundcover or perennial over the root area to shade the soil.

Clematis can be planted deep and actually benefit from having the crown buried up to four inches below the surface of the soil. This helps the plant recover from dormant buds below the soil, if the top of the plant is damaged.

Begin feeding clematis in early spring, as soon as the new shoots start to grow. A generous mulch of garden compost mixed with well-rotted manure and a handful of bone meal is a good recipe. You can substitute a general purpose fertilizer for the manure if you prefer.

Keep the mulch away from the stems. During the summer months, fertilize with a liquid fertilizer twice a month until mid-August. After that, the plants need time to slow down and harden off for the winter.

Pruning clematis vines is somewhat complicated. Keep track of the names of the varieties you plant so that you can ask for help at your local nursery. Proper pruning will create masses of flowers that cover the plants at bloom time. Improper pruning will delay flowering, and no pruning will leave you with a tangled mass of stems but plenty of flowers.

The first spring after planting, all clematis should be cut back just as you see leaf buds developing. Cut above two sets of buds on each stem. This will thicken the stems and encourage proper root development.

Clematis will reward you with an abundance of beautiful blossoms for many years. To see a clematis in full bloom is to understand why it is often called “the queen of the flowering vines”.

Happy May Day!

Friday, May 1st, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed roses to encourage a beautiful display of color later this month. Treat plants to prevent insect and disease problems.
    • Plant the vegetable garden this month, but remember that late frosts can still nip tender young plants. “Season Starter” protects against frost damage and promotes earlier harvest.
    • Flowering dogwood trees are blooming now to help you choose a beautiful small tree for a focal point in your garden.
    • It’s time to put out oriole feeders. You can also attract them with fresh orange halves.
    • Colorful Gerberas with their large, daisy flowers are a standout in containers. Water them infrequently and give them plenty of sun for flowers all summer.

Flowers for May Day

May Day is all about enjoying flowers and the beauty of nature. The sweetness of spring is most evident in May. It’s the perfect time to celebrate with some special flowers.

May Day was originally the day on which the ancient Romans honored Flora, the goddess of flowers. Roman art of the period shows her walking around the landscape scattering flowers as she goes. When Romans arrived in Britain, May Day took on some of the local Celtic customs as well. The May pole, which was decorated with garlands and flowers, played a key role in May Day celebrations.

Gathering flowers and branches became a tradition and “bringing in the May” became a popular activity on May 1st. The giving of May baskets are a nice tradition. Make a flower-filled basket and tie a bow or ribbon streamers onto the handle and fasten it to the door handle of a friend.

May is indeed a glorious month in the garden. We start out with the fragrant blooms of lilacs wafting through the air and wisteria, draping the trellis with her lavender flowers. Then we are greeted by the spectacular azaleas and rhododendrons that burst into bloom after a few warm days. The camellias are still covered with their perfect pink, white or red flowers.

Dogwood trees light up the shady woodland garden, their simple blossoms reminding one of butterflies, at a distance.

Cherry trees will be blooming before long with pink or white flowers in profusion. Their many varieties include upright ‘Kwanzan’, with its puffy pink flowers, and weeping forms with pale pink blossoms that cascade to the ground.

Flowering pear trees will soon put on their spring show with billows of white blossoms. Crabapple trees continue to brighten the landscape with their colorful flowers in every shade of pink.

Clematis vines with large, showy flowers will grace trellises in many gardens. Their blooms are real show-stoppers when they cover a trellis in front of the house. And snowball bushes will soon be covered with masses of white flower clusters.

Lovely bleeding hearts are now nodding their heads in the shade garden. Bright white candytuft is covered with masses of flowers that attract butterflies. Columbine will soon be blooming and attracting hummingbirds to their colorful blossoms. And irises will bloom this month in almost every color combination imaginable.

Sweet violets are a favorite ground cover in semi-shady places. They spread happily around the garden. The little flowers of Tiny Rubies dianthus add their charm to the border. And happy pansies bob their smiling faces in the breeze.

May is a gift from the flower world to all of us flower lovers. Happy May Day!