» Archive for October, 2008

Fall Color in the Garden

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Ornamental cabbage makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Crocus and daffodils announce the arrival of spring if you plant them now. Choose from a variety of colors and bi-colors available now.
    • Cover small ponds with netting or shade cloth to catch falling leaves so they don’t rot in the pond.
    • 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.

Fall Color in the Garden

Though many plants pass into winter rather quietly, there are a number of shrubs that end their growing season with a flash of bright colors. Reds, yellows and oranges usher out the last warm days with a cheery farewell.

Japanese barberry is an attractive, red-leaved shrub whose foliage displays a festival of colors before dropping. The leaves turn to yellow, orange and red all on the same plant. It also has bright red berries.

Burning bush is a real eye-catcher. Also known as winged Euonymus, it is a dense, green background shrub that suddenly turns bright red in the fall.

Japanese rose, Kerria japonica, is a graceful large shrub with flowers like small yellow roses in the spring and summer. In autumn, the bright green leaves turn to golden yellow before they fall.

Crape myrtle is well-known for its papery pink, purple or red flowers in the summer. It is also pretty in the fall when the leaves change to yellow, orange and red before they drop.

Heavenly bamboo, Nandina, is a good-looking shrub year-round. In the spring it puts on a lovely display of white flowers that produce berries which turn bright red in the fall. The leaves also take on a reddish hue and both berries and leaves hang on through the winter.

Spiraeas are a large family of shrubs with tiny flowers in clusters. The spring-blooming varieties, like ‘Bridal Wreath’, have long arching branches covered with delicate white flowers. In the fall they are again colorful as the dark green leaves turn to a rich red.

Snowball bush also has lovely fall foliage. This handsome bush is covered with clusters of white flowers that look like snowballs in the spring. In the fall, its leaves become flushed with rosy red before they drop.

Witch hazel is an uncommon shrub in this area, but it has several desirable features. They bloom very early, in February, with spidery red or yellow flowers that have a spicy fragrance. In fall the leaves turn golden on most varieties. ‘Diane’ shows a particularly fine red fall color.

Blueberry bushes are an ornamental and fruiting shrub that can serve a dual purpose in the landscape. Fall foliage on blueberry plants will usually be a bright orange or red color. Blueberry shrubs need acidic, moist soil and do well planted with Camellias or Azaleas as they share similar soil requirements.

One of the prettiest perennials in the fall is Hardy Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. It grows 8-12 inches tall, spreading to 18 inches wide with intense blue flowers in late summer and fall. Its foliage turns bright red, even while the blue blossoms persist.

Probably the most brilliant red, besides poison oak, comes from Virginia creeper and Boston ivy. These deciduous vines turn a brilliant scarlet when the weather starts to cool. Clinging to a fence, they make a spectacular backdrop to any garden.

Don’t let your garden have the fall blues. Dress it up with the bright reds and yellows of these shrubs and vines.

Fall Gardening

Friday, October 24th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Tulips can paint the spring garden with almost any color you choose. Plant them now to enjoy their bright flowers next April.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Divide overgrown water lilies and irises. Repot using heavy soil with no organic matter or the new, bagged aquatic planting media.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Seed slopes with annual ryegrass to prevent erosion and improve the soil for later plantings.

Growing Great Garlic

Garlic is a staple in the kitchen, turning ordinary food into gourmet delights. And it should be a staple in the garden as well. Homemade garlic oil spray makes an effective deterrent for many garden pests. Garlic interplanted with other crops will help repel some insect pests.

Garlic grows best in deep, rich soil, well-drained and full sun. Bulbs will not develop to their full size if it is shady. It should be planted in the fall as close to the autumnal equinox as possible. This gives the bulbs time to develop some roots before winter. Garlic likes cool weather, so it is a good winter crop. Garlic is ready to harvest around the summer solstice.

Newly planted garlic should be watered twice a week until the rains start. A garlic bulb is separated into cloves and each clove is planted 4-6 inches apart and 1-2 inches deep. Weeds are garlic’s biggest enemy so weed the bed regularly. Gophers love garlic so protect your crop with gopher wire or traps.

One pound of garlic plants a 25-foot row or a bed 4 by 6 feet at 4-inch spacing. For most garlics, you can harvest 10 pounds for every pound you plant.

In the early spring, encourage vigorous leaf growth by fertilizing the bed. Use fish emulsion every two weeks or a foliar spray of seaweed or fish emulsion. Stop fertilizing as soon as you see the base begin to swell as the plant begins to form a bulb.

Keep the plants well watered during the last few weeks when the bulbs are forming. The extra water and fertilizer will result in large bulbs. Sometimes flower stalks will start to grow. It is important to cut or break them off as soon as you see them or they will reduce the size of your crop.

Garlic is harvested in late June or July. The leaves will turn yellow and then brown when the garlic is ready to harvest. Let it dry on the ground for a day or two. You can braid the dried stalks and hang them on a wall where they will be decorative and handy.

There are hundreds of kinds of garlic grown throughout the world. They can be divided into two groups: hard-necked garlic and soft-necked ones.

The most common here is California Early White, which is grown commercially around Gilroy, California. It is vigorous, productive and has a pungent flavor. It is the easiest to grow and seems to be less fussy about growing conditions than the others. It is a softneck variety.

Late Pink garlic has smooth bulbs and pinkish cloves with a fairly strong flavor. It has a soft pliable neck that lends itself to braiding and stores for 6 to 8 months in proper conditions. It matures late and is usually the last garlic to come out of the ground.

Spanish Roja is an heirloom garlic with rich, spicy flavor.  This large hardneck variety has a blushed pink-red color with bulbs usually over 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The bulbs have thin bulb wrappers and 7-10 easy-to-peel cloves per bulb.

Elephant garlic is a very large, easy-to-peel garlic with a mild flavor. It is a good keeper and full-sized bulbs weigh up to 1 pound. Plant the cloves 3 to 4 inches below the soil surface and space them from 8 to 10 inches apart in the row.

Grow yourself some great garlic by planting it now.

Light up the Garden with Bulbs!

Friday, October 17th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
    • Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure.
    • Protect the pond from the worst of the leaf fall with a fine-mesh net over the surface of the pond.
    • Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring.
    • 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.

Landscaping with Bulbs

Landscaping with bulbs is a great way to make your home beautiful year after year. With just a little effort, you can create dazzling carpet of spring color.

Bulbs are much more impressive when planted en masse. Uniform color and texture creates an impressive visual effect. To make this happen requires a little planning.

The novice gardener often makes the mistake of planting tulips or daffodils in a straight line along a walkway like ducks in a row. It is much better to plant them in groups of at least a dozen. In fact the best way to make an impact with a small grouping of bulbs is to plant them in a triangle formation with the point of the triangle toward the viewer. This will fool the eye into seeing more flowers than you have actually planted!

Of course, if you have the room to plant 50 bulbs of a kind, you can have a really spectacular show. In Holland at Keukenhof Gardens, they plant 70 acres of bulbs to bloom each spring, in huge drifts of solid colors. Their fabulous display gardens are world famous. An interesting technique that they use is planting in layers.

Bulbs are planted on top of each other, in different layers.  The late-blooming tulips are placed deepest in the ground; above them early-blooming tulips; and above them crocus. This way flowers will bloom at the same spot in the park, from early in the season until late in the season, giving a continuous display of color.

Plant bulbs of one color in small spaces in the landscape. One color will have greater impact and make the planting space look larger. In large spaces, a planting of two or three colors will have the best effect. Select colors that blend together and don’t mix them: group each color together in interlocking shapes.

Another way to use bulbs for landscaping is called “naturalizing”. Naturalizing is the process of imitating nature by planting in irregular clumps scattered over the landscape. A grassy hillside dotted with yellow daffodils is a glorious sight.

Most bulbs like to be planted in full sun, though some will tolerate partial shade. It works well to plant under deciduous trees because the bulbs will bloom before the trees leaf out, so they will get the sun they need.

You can also interplant bulbs and pansies for a long-lasting spring flower show. Plant the pansies between the bulbs so the bulbs can easily come up between them. You can choose pansies with faces, or the solid colored ones. Little violas also make a lovely ground cover over bulbs.

Bulbs are one of the easiest ways to add beauty and color to the landscape. And this is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs so they will be ready to flower next spring.