» Archive for November, 2015

Landscaping with Bulbs

Friday, November 20th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.
    • Rake and destroy leaves from fruit trees that were diseased this year.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with a copper spray. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Liquidambar and Chinese pistache trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.

Landscaping with Bulbs

One of the things gardeners look forward to in the fall is planting bulbs that will bloom in the spring. It is a simple job that brings big results, but it should be done by the end of November.

Spring bulbs, with their great variety of color, flowering time, plant height and shape are an important addition to any landscape or garden. Since bulbs give us our first spots of color after a long winter, they are always welcome sign of spring. In addition, they need no watering except the winter rains.

Bulbs always look nice planted in front of a section of evergreen shrubs. Many houses have plants up against the house which make a nice backdrop for groupings of bulbs. A border of bulbs planted along the edge of the lawn will add a splash of color to the lawn area. 

Spring bulbs can also be planted under deciduous trees. The bulbs will bloom before the trees leaf out, giving them plenty of light to make strong stems. Some bulbs that perform well under trees and shrubs are grape hyacinths, crocus, snowflakes and daffodils. 

In a perennial bed or border, spring bulbs will bloom during March, April and May before most perennials start to flower. Locate the bulbs in the planting bed so that the dying foliage will not be noticed. Spring bulbs used in the perennial border can be left in the ground the year round or they can be removed and replaced by other plants after flowering is complete.

 Some bulbs can be planted with low growing ground covers like ajuga, violets, creeping thyme or low-growing sedum. Choose bulbs that are at least twice as tall as the ground cover.  Small bulbs like crocus can also be planted in a lawn. They will be finished blooming by the time you get out to mow the grass and they look very cute popping up out of the lawn. 

Spring bulbs will bloom between early February and mid-June. First to bloom are crocus, grape hyacinths and narcissus, followed by hyacinths, daffodils and tulips through April and May. The visual feast ends with Dutch iris and elegant Alliums. 

Planting bulbs of one variety or color in mass will have greater visual impact. Never plant bulbs in a single straight row or in a single circle around a tree or bush, except in very formal gardens. Bulbs look better and more natural when they are planted in masses. 

In small areas, bulbs of one color will make the planting space look larger. In large spaces, a planting of two or three colors can be effective. Plant each color together, don’t intermix them. The color of spring flowering bulbs is enhanced when interplanted with pansies or primroses or other early flowers. 

Try some fun combinations like blue hyacinths or yellow tulips with miniature narcissus. Add some blue pansies for a living bouquet. Plant pink and red tulips together for a living Valentine. Or try a bold mixture of fragrant hyacinths that will light up the border next spring.

Enjoy painting your landscape with beautiful bulbs.

Gardening by the Moon

Friday, November 20th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant tulip, daffodil, hyacinth and narcissus bulbs now for beautiful blooms next spring, and let Mother Nature do the watering for you.
    • Sasanqua camellias have lovely, delicate flowers that bloom through the winter months. Find a place for one of these hardy shrubs in the landscape.
    • Plant Paperwhite Narcissus in pots now for fragrant Christmas gifts.
    • Mulch established rhubarb plants with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • Clean up the garden by raking leaves and old flower blossoms out from under your shrubs. Roses and camellias especially appreciate this.

Gardening by the Moon

Planting by the moon is an idea as old as agriculture. Since ancient times, our ancestors have watched the phases of the moon and observed the behavior of seeds and young plants.

As they did so, they saw that seeds germinated more quickly when they were planted at certain times. They also saw that some seedlings grew more vigorously than others, and that some crops fared better when planted at certain times than at other times. Years of observation led them to the conclusion that the phases of the moon were responsible for these differences.

Indeed the moon’s position in the sky does appear to influence plant behavior, just as it affects the tides in the ocean. And for this reason many gardeners plant and garden “by the moon.”

Astrological gardening, as it is called, is an elaborate system involving both the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. As the moon moves around the earth, it passes through each of the 12 constellations of the zodiac every month. “The moon is in Pisces” means that the moon is in the same part of the sky as the constellation Pisces. The moon moves into a new constellation every 2-3 days.

Every gardening task has its optimum time from planting seeds to harvesting crops and killing weeds. For best results, planting, and other garden jobs, should be done when the moon is in the right phase and also in the right constellation for that activity.

The best time for planting above ground crops, like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and spinach, is between the new (dark) moon and the first quarter. The most fertile signs of the zodiac are Cancer, Scorpio, Taurus, Libra or Pisces. So planting these crops will be most successful when the moon is in this phase and in one of these zodiac signs.

Between the first quarter and the full moon, plants with a fruit or pod, like beans, squash and tomatoes, do best. Flower seeds also germinate best at this time, especially in the sign of Libra.

The week following the full moon is a good time to plant bulbs and root crops along with perennials and grape vines. This is also a good time for transplanting, since active root growth is strong. It is also the best time for pruning, especially under the sign of Scorpio.

Between the last quarter and the new moon, activities like weeding, cultivating and pest control can be done during a barren sign like Leo, Virgo, Aquarius and Gemini. It is also a good time for harvesting.

If all this sounds too complicated, that’s because it is a very complex system that has taken hundreds of years to work out. Fortunately though, others have done the work of sorting this out and have put it together in a calendar called Gardening by the Moon 2016, available at the nursery. It gives you day-by-day suggestions for all your gardening activities based on the cycles of the moon to keep you on track with your gardening jobs.

Get ready for a great gardening year by taking advantage of the secrets of gardening by the moon.

Potted Bulbs for the Patio

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • 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.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Cut asparagus down to about two inches above the ground once all of the foliage has died. Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • There’s still time to plant garlic sets for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose California white, Spanish roja or Elephant garlic varieties now available.

Potted Bulbs for the Patio

Gardeners have been growing bulbs in pots and other containers for hundreds of years. Planting bulbs in containers gives you the opportunity to enjoy the fragrance and beauty of their flowers up close, to experiment with bulbs that are new to you, and to easily change the look of your garden every year.

Bulbs in containers have different needs than those planted directly in the ground. Compared to a flower bed, any container holds just a small amount of soil. As with any container planting, you need to supply everything the bulb needs.

When the water in soil freezes, it expands, and that can easily break terra cotta, ceramic, and even rigid plastic pots. To avoid this, plant your bulbs in flexible plastic pots – common black plastic nursery pots, for example – and then slip these pots into decorative cache-pots in the spring when the bulbs start to bloom.

Bulbs in pots are typically planted much closer together and less deep than bulbs in the ground. Plant bulbs so they’re close but not touching, with their tips just below the soil surface. The goal is to leave as much room as possible under them for root growth. Arrange tulip bulbs with their flat side facing out for a neater display of leaves.

Cold is essential for winter bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Place the pots in a cold, dark location like an unheated garage or garden shed – somewhere chilly but where the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing – for fastest rooting. Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. It takes 3 or 4 months for these cold-hardy bulbs to root.

When they’re ready to be moved, you will see roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pots or new stem growth at the top that’s about two inches high. Then move them to a sunny patio or deck and sit back to enjoy the show. In about three weeks, you will be delighted by the beauty that you have created in your containers.

For the most part, it’s best to just plant one type of bulb in each container. But there are a few combinations that work well together. One called “February Starlight” combines dark blue hyacinths with a sweet little rock garden narcissus. They will bloom for you in early spring.

Of course, you can plant three different kinds of fragrant narcissus together in a pot and they will bloom together and perfume the air around them.

Paperwhite Narcissus don’t need to be chilled first like others do. You can grow them in a pot in soil, or in a bowl with just rocks and water. Plant them either way, then place the containers in a cool, dark place – like a closet indoors – for 2-3 weeks, until the shoots are an inch or two tall. Then move them to a bright location, with no direct sunlight, and enjoy their beauty and fragrance in your home.

Enjoy the magic of spring bulbs indoors or outside in all your living areas, by planting them this month.