{ Archive for the ‘bulbs’ Category }

The dangers of sending me to the hardware store

I’d just like to say at the outset that Chris is to blame.

He needed some more 1 1/2 inch screws for his current project. I was going into town. He asked me to pick some up for him. I agreed.

The trouble is, all the fasteners are towards the rear of our local Home Hardware, which means I have to walk past aisles and aisles of temptation in order to fill his request. I managed to ignore the racks of seed packets by the front door. I noticed, but did not stop to examine, the kitchen gadgets on special. I allowed my daughter to raid the paint swatches, as we are planning to fix her bedroom up this spring.

Triumph of triumphs, I got to the back of the store without picking up anything. I located the screws in question without incident. But on the return journey, there was birdseed. I mean, a lot of birdseed. Impressed at the varied selection I thought would only be found at a specialty store, how could I walk on? Such meticulous effort to feed our feathered friends must be applauded. Hence, a new suet feeder is hanging in our biggest spruce tree.

Suet brick holder, $1.99; Suet bricks, $4.97 for 3 (several varieties); both Home Hardware.

It would have stopped there, but I had to wait at the till for just a moment or two — long enough to notice that coir seed starter trays were on sale. And soil mix. And oh, that’s right, I should pick up some extra drainage trays. Two cracked on me last year, after all. And what’s this? Daffodil bulbs, just waiting for someone to force them for Easter? Why thank you, don’t mind if I do. They might not be ready by then, but need I repeat… daffodils.

After several weeks in the attic we'll have some buds!

Not the most grievous of financial infidelities, I know. But I was prepared for, and received, the eye rolling when I returned home with two shopping bags instead of a little plastic bin of hardware.

“Hey,” I said in defence, “Count your blessings. I could have come home with a new set of garden hoses. They were on the shelves.”

 

2-second garden tip: A trick to keep paperwhites upright

Today’s 2-second garden tip was first printed in the Winter 2006 issue of Canadian Gardening. It has been on the website ever since and every year I remind our readers of this clever trick. Here is a link to the original article that has a bit more info: Keep your paperwhites upright. And, here is our Pinterest-worthy tip:

2-second garden tip: Tucking in dahlia tubers

Today’s tip comes via garden writer Veronica Sliva. Veronica and I have known each other for a few years as members of the Garden Writers Association. In fact, Veronica was the regional director when we first met. We usually see each other throughout the spring and summer months at various gardening events, from Canada Blooms to the Toronto Botanical Garden’s annual Through the Garden Gate tour. That is, if Veronica is not off leading tours around the world for GardeningTours.com.

A prolific garden writer, Veronica creates columns and articles for both print and web (including CanadianGardening.com), as well as for her own website, A Gardener’s World.

Here is Veronica’s autumn-based 2-second tip:

‘Tis the season for holiday plants

With Remembrance Day behind us and Halloween firmly in the past, it is time for many of us to get into the full swing of all things Christmas.

I’ve got my poinsettia going, and my baby rosemary plants are putting on new growth. Now it’s time to try something else: forcing bulbs.

I’ve never grown an amaryllis or anything like that, but this year I thought I’d try paperwhites. I’m a die hard daffodil fan, so these cousins (Narcissus papyraceus) aren’t too far outside my comfort zone.

The little gift pack I stumbled across at Walmart for five bucks actually came with a pot and a disk of compressed coir, but many people plant the bulbs in a dish of water topped up with pebbles or marbles for stability. My kit says to plant them six weeks before you want blooms; most people on the Interweb say three weeks, so I’m doing it today and we’ll see.

I decided to ditch the coir and pot that came with the kit and do something prettier.

I put a shallow layer of stones in this (plastic-lined) dish, placed the bulbs, then covered them up to their "shoulders" in more stones and added just enough water to keep their bottoms wet.

I did find an intriguing tip for keeping blooming paperwhites from getting top-heavy –get them ever so slightly drunk. But as to why paperwhites are thought of as a Christmas flower, I couldn’t find any clues other than they bloom in December in warm climates. There doesn’t seem to be any special symbolism.

Poinsettias symbolized purity to the ancient Aztecs, and there’s the usual holly and ivy to represent eternity and resurrection. Evergreen trees fall into the same category. But amaryllis? Christmas Rose (Serissa or Helleborus, depending on who you ask)? Christmas cactus? We just seem to be looking for something alive and lovely in the dark winter months.

Fair enough. We were pretty excited when Chris got a zygocactus (Schlumbergera) blooming again.

Rosemary babies in the background!

At least, he’s the one who rescued the poor little guy. It was languishing in a corner after being relocated during the ever-present renovations, and he moved it to his studio where it gets bright, indirect light. He’s taking full credit for the transformation; I think he accidentally did exactly what it needed. 

But I’m not complaining. It’s pretty exciting to have so many things growing when there’s carols on the radio and four inches of snow.

Mystery tulip bulbs

In a hodge-podge corner of the front garden I have a bunch of different colored tulips. I’m still deciding what to do in this spot, so I’m content to let them go on doing their thing until I make up my mind, but I did decide quite a while ago one thing: I want to move the yellow ones over to where I’ve got some purple ones (I’m all about the complementary colors, you see.). Problem is, fall comes around, and I realize I have no idea where to dig to get the yellow tulips as opposed to the red or orange.

So this spring I was real smart. When the tulips bloomed, I reused the plant tags from the flats of pansies I bought to mark the bunches of yellow tulips so I could dig them up and move them this fall.
As in, now.
Well, I don’t know where those plant tags have gone, but they’re gone. I blame either children or hail.
Frustrated, I decided to dig anyway, trusting my memory (ha!) as to where the yellow ones had been. Approximately.

I found bulbs all right, but the question is, are they the right ones? Do I put them back and wait until next year to sort them out? Or do I take a chance and put them in their new home, and weed out any reds that might have slipped in?

I examined the bulbs carefully: no colour clue in the standard brown-covered cream. No little stamp on the outside stating the cultivar… oooo, wouldn’t that be handy? Or maybe little stickers like they use for produce in the grocery stores! There’s always a few of those persisting in the compost, so why wouldn’t they hold up to a few years in the ground? Somebody has got to look into the possibilities. I’m telling you, this could be a revolution in bulb management. Maybe not on the scale of the 1630′s, but it would change my little world.

Or maybe I’ll just stick em’ in the ground and cross my fingers.

 

Low-maintenance Monday: Allium ‘Schubertii’

The next long weekend may be in July, but the best fireworks this year come from the Allium ‘Schubertii’ in the garden. The purple flowers of this ornamental onion are showstoppers. Every gardener, blogger and writer eventually stumbles across the description of the large, globe-like flowers that are 15 cm in diameter. Visualize star-shaped, lilac-pink flowers that shoot out of the centre stem; a spherical shape comprised of hundreds of tiny flowers. Imagine a giant sparkler of a flower head caught in mid-bang with as many as 200 individual pink florets or a whimsical giant onion creating a spidery ball in bloom.

A Globemaster allium towers over the garden.

Many will agree that when it’s in bloom, any allium commands attention as it towers over the other plants in the garden. This particular allium will climb 60 cm on spindly stems and spread an amazing 30 cm. They make even more of a statement if grouped in clumps of three or more. And, they remind Sonia Leslie, one of the master gardeners featured in Gardening from a Hammock, of the stars and planets. She recommends these plus any and all alliums for a low-maintenance garden.

“These are members of the onion family, unappealing to squirrels or deer,” she says. Sonia assures us that you can’t go wrong with any allium as they last a long time in the garden and then the seed heads provide interest when they fade and dry. Allium bulbs are planted in the fall, bloom throughout spring and summer (depending on the variety), and then provide architectural interest throughout the fall and into the winter.

There are hundreds of varieties of alliums, from small to huge. Sonia recommends three varieties in particular to provide low, medium and tall heights and that provide blooms from spring until midsummer. They are: golden garlic allium (Allium moly ‘Golden Garlic’), giant allium (Allium giganteum), and, of course, our dramatic Schubertii allium (Allium ‘Schubertii’).

Allium ‘Schubertii’ is one of the star plants selected by 17 expert gardeners in Gardening from a Hammock by Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper. Gardening from a Hammock is an easy-to-use book describing how to create a fabulous, four-season garden using low-maintenance plants. It’s loaded with tips and has a botanical reference guide.

New garden, new mission to outsmart the squirrel population

I think my problem with squirrels is pretty well-documented throughout the archives of this blog. They changed me from an optimistic gardener into a hand-waving, cayenne-sprinkling lunatic. I think my green thumb is in for an even ruder awakening. Two weeks ago I moved from my little cottage with its modest yard to a much larger property in the town of Dundas. The yard, with its well-established cedars, peonies, rose of Sharons (roses of Sharon?) and other well-pruned shrubs, is an amazingly blank canvas. Moving in the fall means I have the whole winter to start figuring out what I want to plant, landscape, etc.

In the meantime, I picked up a few bulbs the other day from my new local nursery, the Holland Park Garden Gallery, and planted them on the weekend. As I was digging my holes, one new neighbour stopped on her way by and warned me about the squirrels and chipmunks. She was told that shaking the bulbs in talcum powder helps to remove the human scent. I tucked this bit of advice away, but unfortunately I didn’t have any powder on hand, so I kept digging.

Next, our neighbour on the north side of us gave my husband and I a tour of his garden and his wife warned me that despite buying bulbs squirrels won’t like, I had better lay down some wire mesh to keep them out. Apparently they’ll still dig up the offensive bulbs, but toss them aside and move along. So, I found a roll of some sort of synthetic mesh in the garage (I can’t recall why we would have bought it in the first place, but thought it would do the trick). It’s about a foot wide, so I cut it in strips, laid it over where I planted and secured it in place with old metal tent pegs. I’ve included a photo below.

It's not very pretty, but hopefully it will keep the squirrels away from my daffodil and hyacinth mix!

I also planted some tulips and daffodils in my front garden. They’re in kind of an awkward spot for the “mesh” treatment, so I’m hoping they’ll be okay. (Note: I just glanced outside and there are a couple of freshly dug holes. Drat!)

Well, I’m sure I have plenty of lessons to learn in this new garden of mine besides having to put up with a rampant squirrel population. Did I mention there are also rabbits and deer to contend with?

 

How to repent and overhaul a flower bed

So, some of you may remember the horrid mess I encountered in one of my perennial beds this spring, thanks to my total neglect.

 

I continued my pattern of neglect right through the summer, but this week I decided the time had come to face up to my sins and fix things up. (Actually, I decided this last week, but it rained.)

If you, as I, have a nasty secret in your backyard, here are a few steps you can take to turn your life around.

1. Admit that you are powerless over quackgrass, that it really has become unmanageable.

2. Come to believe that a power greater than a trowel, fork, spade, or tiller is needed. Consider the merits of Roundup.

3. Start digging.

4. Put aside shame and ask for help.

5. Consider the layered newspaper thing. Smack yourself, remembering it is not a match for this particular problem.

6. Keep digging. Remind yourself that you really do need to divide the bulbs and the perennials anyway.

7. Lift all valuable plants. Marvel at the ability of grass roots to penetrate straight through an iris rhizome.

8. Stop for lunch.

9. Dig.

10. Consider Roundup.

11. Vacillate between replanting now, or stashing all the keeper plants in another part of the yard until the grass is really, really, really gone, either by Roundup or newspaper.

12. Remember that grass is never gone; stash plants/bulbs/etcetera in garage and put off decision for tomorrow.

It’s getting to be bulb planting time…

I’m not generally the type to pay a lot of attention to advertising, but I do have an admiration for a clever tagline or whimsical campaign. So when I first saw a Dig.Drop.Done magazine spot, it peaked my curiosity. A brightly colored home, with a vaugely Leave-it-to-Beaver mom at center, precariously icing a zillion-layer cake? And it’s for flower bulbs? I love bulbs. What is this?

I went and had a look at the website. It was started by a group of bulb companies to “promote the joy of bulb gardening and ensure its future in North America.” Much of it is aimed at the beginning gardener as opposed to the seasoned vetran, but some of the pop-up tips from the three “ladies” — mascots of bulb planting — were helpful to me though I’ve been planting bulbs for a good ten years.

Check out their “bulb-pedia” for planting and species info on a very respectable range of flowers; and the ladies’ videos if you’re up for a groan or two…

The wonder of it all

I’m going to stop for a moment from my usual narration of events to draw your attention to the affairs of nature we observe and encourage as gardeners.

Watching seeds sprout and perennial roots send out new shoots, I’ve been thinking – how does this happen? How is it that we take the growth of plants for granted as absolutely normal? Even with the understanding of biology, cell division, photosynthesis, isn’t the the whole process just this side of impossible?

Seeds turning into flower, or food, or tree is simply a part of our lives. We’re surrounded by it. But think for a minute. A tiny 1 millimeter seed. Add water, soil, light, and time, and you’ll end up with a 10 inch carrot. Isn’t that on par with pulling a rabbit out of a hat? Or Scotty beaming us up?

These little packets of cells know entirely what they are doing. They know how to make beautiful, useful somethings out of dang near nothing. And after exposure to cold that would end the life of most respectable living things, many of them come popping up cheerily as if nothing were ever wrong.

I invite you to mentally pack away your spring to do list, your gripes about mud or snow, everything you know about botany and cultivars and fertilizers and landscape design, and go find a crocus or a tree budding. Watch it for a bit. Marvel at the absolute ridiculousness of it all.

And remind yourself–this is reality. And this little bit of reality is a full-on miracle.

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