» Archive for November, 2009

Colorful Persimmon Trees

Friday, November 13th, 2009 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.
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.

Colorful Persimmon Trees for Home or Orchard

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

Persimmons are a favorite fruit throughout the Orient 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 crimson 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 must be allowed to soften before their astringency changes to a rich, sweet flavor; and the non-astringent types which 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.

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 very popular in the Orient. The shiny red, smooth, tomato-shaped fruit are 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.

Persimmons are a wonderful fall fruit to add to your orchard or to stand alone as an handsome ornamental tree.

Fall Houseplant Care

Friday, November 13th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Japanese maples and snowball bushes are some of the most colorful shrubs in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.
    • Compost falling leaves to make excellent garden mulch by next season.
    • Clean up dead foliage on perennials like peonies, daylilies and balloon flower and cut back dead flower stems on Echinacea, blanket flower and penstemon.
    • Cover your pond with netting or shade cloth to catch falling leaves so they don’t rot in the pond.

Fall Houseplant Care

Autumn is a time to pay a little attention to your houseplants. At this time of year heaters and wood stoves make the air too dry for most tropical houseplants. But by providing adequate humidity, a good location and proper water and fertilizer the plants should do just fine.
Temperatures can be a problem especially if you use a wood stove for heating. Temperatures are often too high near wood stoves and too cold if you leave the house for a few days. Window sills behind drawn drapes where potted plants are often set can be death traps of freezing air when the outside temperature drops to or below freezing, as it often does in the winter.

To increase the humidity around your plants place them on a layer of pebbles in a water-filled tray. You can also mist plants with water on a regular basis.

Houseplants need bright light exposure during the fall and winter months. So try to place them within 4 or 5 feet of a window. Flowering plants may need two to four hours of artificial light in the evening in order to keep them flowering.

Since most plants go into a semi-dormancy in the winter they don’t require as much water as during the growing season. However, if your house is warm or the plants are near a heat source, they may need more frequent watering. So check for water regularly to determine an appropriate watering schedule. Flowering plants require more water than foliage plants. Empty saucers about 15 minutes after watering.

Foliage houseplants like philodendrons, ferns, spider plants, etc. can be fertilized once every three months during the dormant season. Flowering house plants like African violets, azaleas, cyclamen, and others should be fertilized monthly. Be sure they get maximum bright light and even two to four hours of artificial light in the evening.

Azaleas in bloom will need water almost daily. Give them bright light, extra humidity, and keep them away from drafts. Cyclamen prefer cooler temperatures, lots of light and enough but not too much water. Feed them weekly and they should keep flowering for months.

Poinsettias prefer temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees, but they don’t like drafts. Keep the humidity up and give them lots of light. Let them dry out between waterings, feed occasionally and they should last for three months. If you have a poinsettia from last year, place it in a spot where it gets fourteen hours of total darkness and ten hours of bright light each day. Christmas cactus takes the same light requirements and water them sparingly.

For happy houseplants, check for water regularly; bring the plants in from the window sills when the drapes are drawn; keep the humidity up; keep them out of the line of drafts and away from fierce heat. A little extra care at this time of the year will help keep your houseplants in tip-top shape this fall and winter.

The Magic of Spring Bulbs

Monday, November 2nd, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Liquidambar and Japanese maple trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Bright purple, ornamental kale makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Plant ground covers to cover slopes and large open areas. Water until the rains come, and they will fill in and cover the area next year.

Potted Bulbs for the Holidays

You can enjoy a bit of springtime in the middle of winter by forcing bulbs to bloom indoors. Blooming flowers in the middle of winter are always a welcome sight. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives alike. If you would like to grow some flowering bulbs for the holidays, it’s time to get started with that project now.

Starting in October or November, there are only two types of bulbs that you can have blooming by Christmas: Amaryllis and Paperwhite narcissus. Other bulbs, like crocus and hyacinths can be started now but will not bloom until February.

Beautiful amaryllis hybrids come from Holland, and are available as named varieties in many separate colors. These hybrid strains have impressively large flowers, 8 to 9 inches across and 4 to 6 flowers to a stem, often with two stems growing from each bulb. The color range includes bright reds, salmon, soft pink, coral pink, white and red-and-white.

These large-flowered amaryllis are easily grown in 6-inch pots. Keep the potted bulbs in a cool light place at about 50° until the roots are well developed. When leaves start to appear, move them into a warmer room. Bulbs bloom in about six weeks from planting.

Narcissus are easy to grow in soil or in a bowl of rocks and water. Nestle the bulbs into the rocks and fill with water just up to the base of the bulbs. Treat like amaryllis, and they will bloom in 5 to 6 weeks, with lovely, fragrant flowers.

There are attractive pots for forcing crocus and hyacinths indoors. Crocus pots hold ten bulbs and hyacinth vases only one. Both of these need 12 to 14 weeks of cooling, during which time the roots are developing. You can place them in a refrigerator, or a place where temperatures stay below 45° and above freezing.

Tulips can be forced for mid-winter flowers starting this month. Use as many bulbs as can fit in the pot without touching. The more in the pot, the more dramatic the flower show. Plant the bulbs with the flat side near the edge of the pot, with just the bulb noses showing above the soil, and water them well.

Tulips need 12 to 14 weeks of cooling, during which time the roots are developing. You can place them in a refrigerator, or an unheated attic, or any place where temperatures stay below 45° and above freezing.

When the roots are well-developed, bring them into a bright room and they will bloom in 2 to 3 weeks. Although they won’t be blooming by December, you can start these bulbs now and they will be well on their way for holiday gifts. Or hold on to them and bring them into bloom by Valentine’s Day!

Enjoy the magic of spring bulbs in your home this winter.