» Archive for October, 2014

Halloween Decorations from the Garden

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fragrant hyacinths make a colorful display in a garden bed, or can be grown in pots. They come in red, pink, blue and white and can be planted now.
    • Clean up the garden by raking leaves and old flower blossoms out from under your shrubs. Roses and camellias especially appreciate this.
    • Clean up water lilies by cutting off dead leaves. Leave hardy lilies in the pond and sink them down to the bottom of the pond for 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.
    • Snapdragons make cheerful spots of color for the fall and winter garden. Plant some now for instant color.

Halloween Decorations from the Garden

Halloween is fun for kids of all ages. While you may be too old for trick-or-treating, you can enjoy decorating for Halloween. The nice thing for gardeners is that you can find many of the holiday decorations in your own back yard.

Start with pumpkins. Maybe you grew some in the garden just to carve into Jack-o’-lanterns or maybe you have to buy them this year. The best pumpkins for carving have a flattened end to prevent tipping, but any size or shape will work. A good solid handle will make it easy to open and close the Jack-o’-lantern lid if you plan to put a candle inside. When cleaning the pumpkin out, don’t forget to separate the seeds from the meat. These make a delicious snack when lightly stir-fried in oil and salted.

Did you know that pumpkins come in lots of colors? Of course there are orange ones for decorating, and tan ones which are used for pumpkin pie, but there are also bright red-orange ones, called Cinderella pumpkins, and even an Australian Blue pumpkin. You can also grow miniature pumpkins like ‘Jack-Be-Little’ and white ones like ‘Casper.’

Ornamental gourds also make nice Halloween decorations. The small ornamental gourds are easy to grow here and you can try the birdhouse or bottle gourds, and the speckled swan gourds if you have a hot, full-sun garden site. Harvest these when the stem of the fruit starts to dry, taking care not to bruise the gourd. Allow them to dry for about a week in a warm, dry place, then wax and polish them. Or use steel wool to smooth the surface for painting or staining.

Butternut squash are the perfect shape for white gourd ghosts. If you didn’t grow any this year, search out some gourds from the local markets, and decorate and craft them for the spookiest season of the year.

Tie dried cornstalks in bunches to decorate your porch or entryway or hang Indian corn from your front door. And create a garden scarecrow just for fun. You can make beautiful wreaths out of colorful leaves, dried flowers, nuts and cones. Start by making a grapevine wreath out of canes from your grapevines, then wire or glue the decorations onto it.

Decorate the front porch with a combination of pumpkins, gourds and ornamental kale, which is colorful all fall and winter.

Don’t forget backyard wildlife this Halloween! Put out extra treats for the birds and other wildlife! Save the pulp and seeds from your carved pumpkin for the birds! 

For lovers of fall foliage and the bounty of the garden harvest, decorating the yard at Halloween holds an earthy pleasure that no other holiday can match.

Bulbs and Perennials

Monday, October 6th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Ornamental cabbage makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure.

Combining Bulbs and Perennials for Spring Beauty

A spring garden should be full of surprises all season long. From the early crocuses of late winter, through the power and glory of tulips, until the abundant blooms of summer arrive to take their turn, the spring garden should be a showplace. And it can be. All it takes is some planning this fall.

Fall is, of course, the time to plant flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Fall is also a great time to plant perennials that come up in the spring such as hostas, bleeding hearts, peonies, coral bells, daylilies, and others. Skillful combination of bulbs and perennials can make your garden a showcase next spring.

After flowering, bulbs need to be left alone for about six weeks, until their foliage is brown and withered. The foliage dieback period is necessary for the bulbs to “re-charge” for the next season’s bloom, but it can be unsightly. This is where perennial partners can help out.

As the bulb foliage dies back, the perennial foliage is filling out to cover the waning foliage of the bulbs. This “camouflage” strategy can help keep your garden looking fresh, while your bulb flowers make their exit and the ensuing perennial flower show begins.

But camouflage is only part of the strategy. Emerging perennials also complement tulips and other spring-bloomers in the spring garden, providing contrasting foliage that is quite pleasing. Some will even bloom together.

Dicentra spectabilis (bleeding heart), with its fern-like leaves and arching sprays of heart-shaped flowers, adds a graceful romantic tone to the early spring garden. After it blooms, the foliage dies back for the summer. Dicentra eximia ‘Luxuriant’ is a lovely old-fashioned plant with ferny, gray-green foliage and sprays of pink, heart-shaped flowers from May to September. They prefer shady conditions, but can handle full winter sun under deciduous trees.

Hemerocallis (daylilies) are another good bulb foliage concealer with dense strappy foliage that comes up in spring. Depending on the variety, it can provide weeks – or even months – of summer bloom. Daylilies and daffodils are a classic combination. Planted together, daffodils and ever-blooming daylilies can provide bloom from April till October in the same spot.

Hostas with large, colorful leaves of green, chartreuse, blue-tones, golden-green, and green edged in white, are perfect partners for daffodils. As the daffodils mature, the hostas expand to their full glory and camouflage the fading bulb foliage. Use in areas that get morning sun.

Penstemons and yarrows are usually cut back in the winter, which gives spring bulbs room to display their glory. When they start growing, they will cover the browning foliage as the bulbs fade.

Of course pansies and violas also make an excellent bulb companions as they will bloom from now through next spring.

Make your spring garden a masterpiece with some planning this fall.