|Calibrachoa colors are healthy and vibrant!
|MiniFamous Red, White & Blue
|A new variety of Calibrachoa!
|MiniFamous Double Pink
The Plant Whisperer's Pick
have always held an enchanting look in full bloom, however, our garden variety petunias have come a long way from our Grandmother’s
flower beds. Although I still love the heirlooms petunias, growers have developed a more floriferous and
easy to care for compact plant. No more deadheading to keep the plants from looking old with more abundant
smaller blossoms. Calibrachoa (Solanaceae) is a tender perennial that is a distant relative of petunias from Brazil. The Hybrids
include, Million Bells, Super Bells and Supertunias and one of my favorite, the MiniFamous.
Growing the Calibrachoa is easy but
proper watering practices are a must. Although the newer varieties do much better , black rot can occur if the
soil is kept too wet. It is best to let the soil become dry to the touch in the first 1” of soil.
Full sun will make these plants stay happy and in bloom.
New varieties for this year is the C. Superbells “Cranberry Punch” which is a two
toned burgundy flower and a cascading/trailing habit which is perfect for hanging planters. One that I picked this year is
the C. superbells “Cherry Red” which to me is more on the pink coloration but makes up for it with smaller more
abundant flowering. This variety has a somewhat mounding habit that is wonderful for borders and baskets
as well. This later variety is less tolerant of wet soil so water patiently. The first sign of too much watering is the plant
will start to look as if it needs water and droop. Be sure that all of these Calibrachoa is in well-drained soil to prevent
Viola's and Pansies
Just looking at Violas can have a happy effect. Walk into a greenhouse of pansies with their smiling faces
and one can’t help but be a bit more cheerful. Pull out the white gloves, set the pot on for tea and enjoy.
Violas are heirloom flowers. Johnny-jump-ups are one of the wild forms of violet as well as the one first
known varieties. Pansies are the result of cultivation for many years in France from these wild forms of the Viola. The word
Pansy is French for “thoughts” and “memories”. V. ‘Strawberry Sundae’
has unforgettable beautiful large bloom with a perfect mixture of red and white swirled together.
Pansies have much larger flower, but are not as tolerant of our cold temperatures here in the Northeast. Violets
are hardy here in our climate zone 5. Some violets do very well as a perennial in Connecticut gardens. The V. Rebecca is a
beautiful white and yellow flower edged in purple, which will come back reliably each year.
A sure sign that summer is on the way are when we see the first pansies shining their pretty faces
with bright purples, sunny yellows, sparkling reds and even crispy white varieties. I recommend growing them in containers
so they can be used again in the fall. Compliment a spring garden with Pansies just as the tulips, crocus and daffodils start
to fade away.
Dappled shade or bright shade is the secret to growing
these easy to care for plants. Under a deciduous tree that is just sprouting its spring leaves is a perfect place for planting.
Keep the soil moist but not wet and be sure the area or container is well drained. Pansies resent soggy soil and will quickly
wilt. If the weather stays cool, the plants will thrive and bloom into the summer months.
Gardeners are discovering that Pansies are not finished by the end of spring. Fall is a great time to have
plants re-bloom as the cooler temperatures return. Once pansies begin to bolt in the summer heat, cut the plants all the way
back and set the containers in a shady place in the yard. Water regularly until the cool weather returns and the pansies are
ready to bloom again.
Just imagine the V. ‘Jolly Joker’ as a
perfect flower for the fall landscape with its bright orange petals and dark violet edging. These are the colors of fall as
pansies stand far apart from the typical chrysanthemums for autumn.
seeds can also be sprinkled in the garden by late spring to early summer for a fall bloom. Viola seeds can also be sown, germinate
and grow well into the late fall. The foliage will stay evergreen and when spring arrives, the plants will come into full
bloom earlier. The plants are acclimated to the cool temperatures and a stunning early show.
Johnny-jump-ups will re-seed in areas by popping their seedpods out over an area. The seedlings will sprout
up just about anywhere in the garden and the lawn. Sprinkle these seeds into the lawn for early fall.
|Clematis 'Nellie Moser' spring bloomer
|A dark Chocolate Columbine, Lovely
Choosing New Plants for Spring
It's time to go shopping at your local nurseryfor new plants in the perennial garden. Patient
planning and thoughts all through the winter are about to come to fruition. Right now is perennial time, transplanting
and buying new perennials. Annuals must wait a bit longer here in the Northeast. At least until after Memorial Day.
Care must be taken as to what can be purchased and planted right away. Even some of the toughest perennials,
if grown and started this season in a greenhouse must be "hardend off" if one is to plant now. Be sure to take
a good look at what is being offered at your local garden stores and ask if these have been grown in a greenhouse or right
at their site. Most small garden centers that grow their own will have hardy perennials sitting outside of the greenhouses
at this time of the year and will just be starting new growth or perhaps not much growth at all. If you go into a large nursery
and see an almost full grown perennial that is going into bloom, that is a clue that it was forced into growth.
Greenhouse Grown Perennials
This does not mean that it cannot be purchased or planted, just
that you must wait until the weather is warmer to plant it outside. Or you can "harden off" (make it tougher)
by leaving it out in the daylight hours if it is fairly warm and bringing it indoors at night when the temps fall and frost
may present itself. Leaving it on a protected porch is a good way to harden off a plant too. This way it will get used
to the temperatures and also being in full sun (bright shade for shade plants). Think about what it would be like to
go from a controlled greenhouse to outside.
Mail Order Perennials
If you are ordering by
Mail, it is most likely (unless stated) that you will receive a "bareroot" perennial. This can sometimes
take a consumer off guard, getting what look like nothing after looking at pictures all winter of a lovely established plant.
Bareroot perennials are live roots that will start to grow as soon as they are planted and the best way
to ship a larger, quicker starting perennial. Only purchase from a reliable sources such as White Flower Farm, which
ship both potted perennials and bareroot perennials. A good bareroot perennial will come shipped in a moistened material and
wrapped with care. Take notice of mold or white powdery mildew on it at arrival. This will not kill the plant
but fast planting is a must in any case. A nice fleshy root system and perhaps a small bit of new growth will find
a healthy perennial at your door. Do not hesitate to call and ask if you are not sure but in all cases, get out there and
get them planted. Don't let them sit around in the box until Memorial Day!
Transplants from the garden
can be moved now because they are growing in their environment when it is still cool and still small enough to take transplanting.
I always have friends over in early spring to share what I have and swap for other plants that I may have lost of do not have
in my gardens. This is the best time for plants that need division or just to be moved into a better location such as; Hemerocallis
(Daylilies) Monarda (Bee Balm), Lily-of-the-Valley and other perennials that spread into place where on may not want them
to grow. Enjoy yourself this spring and get out there to plant something!
"May Your Gardens be weed free for weeks at a time!" -- The Plant Whisperer
|Dahlia dark Red, Tubers planted in early Spring
|late summer blossom
|Chrysanthemums are reliable perennials
Annual or Perennial?
When planning and starting a new garden, which is better to use, annuals
Annuals will grow and bloom all spring and summer but will not live through the winter months
and will need to be planted each year. This is wonderful for lasting color but can get expensive over time.
Perennials should grow back bigger and better with each growing season. The downside of having only
perennials is most will only bloom for two to three weeks a year, which can leave a garden very green at times. With
careful planning, a perennial garden can bloom through the entire growing season. Perennials require more maintenance
and attention to thrive but well worth the effort over time.
of a garden will need to be established by perennials. The foundation can be evergreen or deciduous. Perennials will support
this function and keep a similarity and form to the established garden.
Herbaceous and evergreen perennials
Some perennials will die all the way back to the ground each year (herbaceous) and hibernate under the soil. These
perennials are very good for areas that are exposed sites or will go through a lot of punishment over the winter months. Herbaceous
Peonies are beautiful, bushy perennials that tuck away to sleep for the winter and come back to fill in the garden each year
with their beautiful foliage and sweetly scented flowers.
can save a garden from being destroyed on very bad winters. Places directly to each side of a front door stoop and around
driveways where heavy snow is often plowed and shoveled in large amounts are trouble spots. Windy sites, foot traffic, animals,
are some other trouble spots.
perennials will show themselves through some of the toughest New England weather. Armeria rubra grows green grass-like mound
all through the winter and in spring it sends out beautiful spikes of pink globe-like blossoms that last for weeks. This is
a wonderful evergreen perennial for the edge of a border planted in clumps of at least three plants.
and evergreen perennials will need division every two to three years to keep them a manageable and healthy. I do not recommend
fertilizing any newly planted perennials for the first year as this may cause problems with the plant establishing a good
root system. Get the soil in good shape by adding lots of aged manure, compost and natural additives before planting a new
Patience is the key to growing perennials, as the first years may not show even one bloom. This is natural and to force
the perennial into blooming by giving the plant more nutrients will make the plant weak. During times of stress such as drought
and hard winters, the perennial may not live.
Annuals are delightful
will complete a life cycle in one growing season. They will bloom through the entire summer with the proper care. Using annuals
as solid borders or a planted specimen can sparkle any garden and are wonderful for the homeowner that likes to change the
theme and colors each year.
Annuals have shallow root systems and most need water and fertilizer
more often to thrive. Some annuals will re-seed and come back again the following year but are unreliable. Fertilizing regularly
will keep annuals healthy and strong for a great performance.
Shade gardens can stand out by using annuals. A mass
planting of Impatiens ‘walleriana’ under the shade of a red maple is most attractive. Theme gardens will sparkle
with color such as a patriotic garden filled with red white and blue annuals.
Annuals can be used in areas that will need to be cleared and
out of the way once the fall arrives. Tender bulbs such as the giant leaved Colocasia are wonderful around above ground swimming
pools and the plant looks very tropical. Once fall arrives and the pool must be covered, it is a much easier job with nothing
in the way around the pool area.
Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ has striking red drooping
flowers that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies from afar. Gladiolas are an inexpensive and easy addition to a cutting
garden. Cut dahlias, gladiolas and fragrant freesia mixed with perennial treats make for a beautiful display on a table. Tender
bulbs need to be carefully dug up and stored each fall or can be replanted each year.
Living together in harmony
What happens when a perennial garden fails to fill in for reasons that we cannot control? A late frost can damage tender
flower buds just as a plant is set to bloom. A wet, cloudy and cool summer can cause the perennials to stop blooming or not
at all. Drought will make many perennials go dormant to save themselves. Annuals will come to rescue the day. Pretty pansies
love the cool weather. Drought tolerant annuals such as Nasturtium or cleome planted among the perennials will save the garden
from looking bare and dreary.
When a perennial is sadly lost there can be a large gap
in the border which annuals come to fill in, if only for a short time. Annuals may be planted all through the growing season
but perennials should be planted in the spring or early fall, not suring the heat of the summer months.
Each year a garden will go through changes with new growth
and mature withe seaon. The plant will become larger and take up more space in a border. During this time of growth, a perennial
garden can look a bit thin. Planting annuals such as dwarf dahlias, portulaca and cosmos will brighten up the garden while
the new perennials are work on establishing a good root system.
Once the foundation fills in every nook and cranny, annuals
will not be needed as much unless the gardener wants to use them as a border to frame out the garden. Empty spaces left by
spring flowering bulbs is a good place for annuals to grow in harmony with the perennials. Another way to add annuals into
the landscape is by using large containers placed all through the perennial border overflowing with color. In all cases annuals
will enhance the perennial border but will not take away from the beauty of the perennial blossoms.
This spring use your creative sense and
think about what kind of time you will have to spend in the garden. Annuals (and container plants) will have lots of
color and need to be watered often if there is no rain. An established perennial garden should do well with minimal care.
|Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'
Monarda is Mint
Monarda, commonly known as Bee Balm, is a unique and versatile
perennial for a home gardener. Its blooms attract hummingbirds into the yard and will introduce height, bright colors. It
is also a good companion to many of our hardiest border plants. It is a member of the mint family which can be seen by the
square stem and a fragrance very apparent once the foliage is touched or cut.
Monarda is native to North America in woodland areas and dry prairies. The Oswego Indians demonstrated to
the early immigrants how to use bee balm in a tea to help with fever, chills and inflammations (Oswego tea). Some tribes used
a cold extract to help with back aches and others to get the heart rate moving. Gardener’s have discovered that the
flowers and leaves are used by many herbalists as an infused tea for many ailments or for just the wonderful flavor when combined
with lemon. The dried flowers and leaves can also be used in fragrant sachets.
Bee balm flowers are very different from most perennials. The blooms have tubular petals that poke out from
the center of every side forming a firework like display. Nice foliage takes on the tinge of the flower colors except for
the white variety which has much brighter green foliage. The early blossoms look as if they are wearing a silly court jester
costume. Many times Monarda will send out a second bloom right on top of the original flower and is marvelous with this two-story
Monarda holds blossoms which will keep bright color in the
border for long periods of time. Smaller varieties such as the M. didyma have bright white 2-inch blossoms with numerous
flowers and can withstand some of the toughest dry conditions. It is a wonderful companion to the purple coneflower which
has not failed to look sterling each year. M. ‘Raspberry Wine’ has larger 4-inch flower heads and is outrageous
in large clumps. Raspberry boasts 4 to 5 inch flower heads that are beautiful paired up with the black eyed, bright yellow
flowers of the Rudebeckia. The daring red M. ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ mixed into a border adds height and very bright
Monarda is tolerant of many conditions. Foliage is darker and richer if
planted in full sun, a good humus-rich soil that is well drained. Once the perennial is established, it is very drought resistant
and does not need to be fertilized to thrive. Plant this perennial in full sun or a partially shaded area. It will look wonderful
all alone in large clumps or mixed into a perennial border. This plant can tend to spread from place to place with a wandering
root system and may need to be curbed each year but well worth the effort to keep it in place.
Monarda is sold early in the spring as a root division which can be
planted 3 to 4 inches below the soil level. Potted plants are sold locally in many garden centers in a variety of colors.
The purple M. ‘Parienacht’ is beautiful with the light lavender blossoms; however, I have found that they are
short lived in many gardens here in Connecticut.
Readers have written to say that it will just disappear after one or two seasons. I have replaced the purple
in my gardens several times and found it may not be as hardy as the others. There is also a M. ‘Croftway Pink’
and M. ‘Fishes’ which are on the pink/purple side that are known to be hardy to the Northeast.
As long as the bee balm gets 4 hours or more of sun per day, it will flower
just as well. Too much shade will cause tall plants that may fall over in a hard rain. Powdery mildew can become an unsightly
problem if the plants are too wet or if there is a lot of rain for the season. This can be an esthetic problem but will not
hurt the plant as it will recover the following year. Otherwise Monarda is one very tough perennial for the home garden.
Monarda Herb Tea
Gather flowers and leaves while in bloom. Tie up bundles
and place in a paper bag to let dry in a well ventilated area. (Be sure that you have not used pesticides on plants that you
want to use in tea.)
Use a tea ball to hold the leaves
or just place flowers and leave in a small teapot and strain before serving. Tea can also be made into iced tea with a sprig
of mint leaves added for a nice touch.
Steep one teaspoon (1tsp) of dried
tops or leaves per one cup of water. Add lemon and sweetener to taste. Enjoy not only your beautiful bee balm in the garden
but a spot of iced tea too!
|Pulmonaria 'Mrs. Moon' is great for shady areas
|Impatiens are a wonderful annual for the shade
|Brightens up a green garden
Challenge A Shade Garden With Color and Texture
It used to be that in a shade
garden, green was the dominant color. Dull shade gardens have been upgraded and will pop with whites, variegated
foliage and colorful blooms when planned right. A beautiful moon garden will illuminate the evening while
colorful plants liven up a shady area for daytime viewing. Fern gardens are ever popular in the shade with the help of Japanese
Spring flowering bulbs and perennials are
the first additions to the shade garden. Hyacinthoides hispanica, Spanish Bluebells, bloom in blue, pink
and white and the Fritillaria meleagris will liven up the front of a garden with petite bell shaped checkered blooms in white
or maroon. Hyacinthoides can be planted in the back of the garden because it is one of the first plants
to bloom and the spent foliage can be strategically hidden by later emerging plants. Galanthus, Snowdrops, be planted in groups
and will naturalize so later on in several season the garden will have quite a show of these fragrant tiny blooms very early
in the spring. Perennials favorites like Hosta can be the “bones” of the garden. Other spring blooming perennials
such as Dicentra, Bleeding Hearts, will bloom for up to three weeks in the garden in pink or white. There are shorter varieties
of this perennial that will not take up as much space such as the Dicentra luxuriant, which have beautiful fern-like foliage,
and petite heart shaped flowers in pink or white varieties. Pulmonaria ‘Mrs. Moon’ will be the show off with flowers
in blue and pink together on one plant. The foliage speckled and is good for shaking up a shady area through the entire growing
Once spring has past and the summer
garden starts to grow, Astilbe is a beautiful flowering perennial with red, pink or white plumes that will add some height
to this area. Lady Ferns and Japanese Painted Ferns will bring the shade garden out of the darkness during the day and catch
the eye of passers by with the foliage. Violets, Toad Lilies and Hemerocallis, Daylilies, in colorful varieties
will fill up the summer garden and add colors from yellow, orange, pink to red. I have fallen in love with the variety H.
‘Hello Dolly’ as the crimson red flowers with a yellow throat bloom from early summer right into the fall in my
Late summer going into the fall is special,
as we want to have a grand finale for the end of our very short growing season here in Connecticut. The Oriental Lily ‘Casa
Blanca’ will provide the fireworks for part shady gardens and these huge, fragrant white blooms will not be forgotten
all winter. Casa Blanca Lilies are easy to plant in the spring or fall and will start a show in late summer. The Climbing
Hydrangea is a very good perennial for a backdrop in the shade garden. It climbs a wall or will cover over an unsightly area.
This is when shade tolerant Annuals will fill in for instant color. Pansies, Coleus, Impatiens, Browallia and Tuberous Begonias
in some of the brightest, boldest colors you’ve ever seen! One of my favorites, Wishbone Flowers can be added and fill
in the shade garden with rainbows of color from mid-summer on. More formal designs can be accomplished for the tidy gardener.
Shade gardening can be a challenge, but with the right planning in these areas, the results will not only be satisfying but
electrifying! Listed below are some shade tolerant and bright shade plants as suggestions for adding texture and color to
shade including Asarum (Wild Ginger) can convert an area that is not so much of a garden as it is an area that grass will
not grow well in. Pachysandra and Lamium will keep an area around a tree neat where no mowing is required. Vinca minor (Periwinkle)
has 2” blue blooms and English Ivy fill areas nicely in-between shrubs and will tolerate shade very well.
Bulbs and Perennials:
Fritillaria meleagris, Galanthus
or Snowdrops, Hyacinthoides hispanica or Spanish Bluebells, Lily-of-the-Valley, Cyclamen, Leucojum or Snowflake and Scilla
or Squill and Columbine, Dicentra spectablilis or Bleeding Heart, Dicentra luxuriant, Solomon’s Seal, Hellebore or Lenten
Rose, Lamium or Deadnettle, Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ & ‘Mrs. Moon’, Heuchera or Coral Bells,
Digitalis or Foxglove and the Lady Slipper Orchid or Cypripedium
Astilbe, Hemerocallis or Daylily, Violets and Pansies, Japanese Painted
Ferns, Asarum, Pachysandra, Vinca minor, Sedum, English Ivy, Lilium martagon, Fuchsia. Asiatic Lilies, Coleus, Impatiens,
Browallia, Lobelia Aristolochia or Dutchman’s Pipe and Begonias
Oriental Lilies, Climbing
Hydrangea, Clematis paniculata or Fall Blooming Clematis, Violas or Pansies
The Lovely Lily
One of the easiest ways to add height and character to a perennial
garden is by planting Lilium bulbs. Lily can be planted in the early spring or in the fall and are available
at both times of the year. Lilies can be grown just about anywhere in the garden, in a shrubby area, the perennial garden
and even on display in containers wherever one wishes to show them off. They are very useful planted in
a cutting garden for fantastic indoor displays.
There are hundreds of Lily varieties available at nurseries and mail
order catalogs. I recommend ordering early for the best and largest of bulbs. The size varies from one variety to another.
A healthy Lily bulb should look like plump scales that overlap each other until the bulb if formed. Some roots will be on
larger bulbs at the base, but is not necessary to grow properly. Take care when purchasing late if there small stalks starting
to grow. It is important to protect the new growth from breaking away from the bulb. The bulb should be firm, not soft or
The flowers of Lilies come in different shapes. There are Trumpets, Bowl
shapes, re-curved petal that will reach all the way back like a butterfly and funnel shaped blossoms that will open slightly
but not fully. We will explore the Oriental and Asiatic so as not to get too complicated.
Asiatic or Oriental? Which to
Asiatic Lilies generally Bloom earlier in the year, from mid-to-late spring. One of the earliest being the
Martagon Lily or Madonna Lily. Many are trumpet shaped and have little or no fragrance. However, lots of
hybrids have been developed to enhance these characteristics. These include the Candidum, American hybrids and Longiflorum
hybrids. One favorite of mine is the Lilium speciosum rubrum. This year it has several small recurved blossoms that look down
and are truly eye catching.
Oriental Lilies may be some the most recognized because they have a very powerful scent
that can carry long distances. One blossom can fill a room with sweet perfume when used as a cut flower. Most blossom later
in the season from mid-to-late summer, sometimes even into early fall such as the sparkling white L. ‘Casa Blanca’.
A very popular Oriental Lily, L. ‘Star Gazer’ has a dark fuchsia blossom speckled with black dots with and outer
edged lined in white, which is a show stopper. ‘Oriana’ starts off as a blush pink bud that opens to surprise
one with a creamy light orange/peach and very nice soft scent. The Oriental Lily flowers are very large bowl shaped bloom
with beautiful color patterns.
Planting and Care of the Lily
Most Lily bulbs can be planted in a full to partially shaded area.
The soil does not have to be anything special but drain well in a place where water is not a problem. Some bulbs grow roots
from the base of the stem. Plant each bulb six to eight inches below the soil as soon as they are purchased for the best results.
Space each bulb at least 12-inches apart so they will each have enough room to mature with time. Taller varieties should be
tied up with a sturdy stake before blossoms open to keep them erect. Heavy rain or the weight of larger blossoms may cause
the tall stalks to bend or break off. Lily bulbs planted in containers should, again, be well drained and
at least 12” in diameter. I recommend using larger containers that are heavy with several bulbs planted in the same
pot for an outstanding show near a doorway or patio.
Lilies are very heavy feeders and will need to be fed on a regular
schedule to keep the bulb strong and healthy. I recommend sprinkling a time released fertilizer right after planting, and
early each spring. When cutting these beautiful flowers for arrangements, be careful not to cut more than one-third of the
stalk as this will make the plant weak.
After flowers have finished blooming, only cut off the spent
flower and not the stalk. The bulb needs to rebuild itself for the next season of growth. Wait until the entire stalk turns
brown in late fall before removing and cleaning the area up for the winter months. The stalk should break away very easily
at this point. Good gardening practices by proper care and clean up of the lily beds in the fall will keep them healthy and
One pest that is important for a gardener to keep a lookout for is the Lily Leaf Beetle. This pest can damage an entire
Lily garden in one spring. The beetle is very beautiful with a bright red body and black head and legs, but a pest indeed.
You can find more information about the lily leaf beetle at the online Pest Handbook by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment
Station. Keeping the flower beds clean and free of debris is helpful in prevention of an infestation.
a look at all of the beautiful varieties of Lily bulbs available this fall. Planting bulbs is an investment in the beauty
of a future garden.
Autumn Means Lots of Activity In The Garden
Now For Spring
Now that autumn is fast approaching, there are many things that
can be accomplished to get the garden ready for next spring. Fall is one of the best times for planting new perennials, shrubs,
trees, renewing garden soils and planting spring flowering bulbs. Good preparation and planning will ensure a beautiful spring.
It will also give the trees, shrubs and perennials an excellent start for next years growing season.
Soils can be amended by adding
lots of compost and manure into the top 3” of soil when preparing a new garden for planting. Preparation for a new landscape
can be done at this time and plans drawn up during the cold winter months for next spring, which breaks things down for the
do-it-yourself homeowner. Be sure that any new planting is watered well going into the cold winter.
With established perennial
gardens, a two to three inch layer of compost or manure can be dressed over the top of the soil. If decorative mulch is used,
pull it away from the garden to the edge and add the composted material around the perennials and shrubs being carful not
to let the compost touch the perennial crowns, then pull the mulch back in place. This will add slow release
of nutrients, help fora good root system an add texture for good drainage, which are all important to a healthy
Any new planting
this year will need winter protection during the first year from very cold periods of winter. The new roots have not yet anchored
the plant into the soil. Each time the ground freezes and thaws; it will push the plant out of the ground, thus freezing the
roots. Winter protection can be a four to six inch layer of oak leaves, (not maple, they tend to dry flat and block water
from getting to the plants), straw (not hay because of weeds) or Pine boughs cut into 2 to three foot lengths for acid loving
perennial trees and shrubs. This natural material will block the sun from warming the soil during periods of thaw and the
plants will be safe from the frost heaves.
If a plant does get pushed out of the ground, do not try to push it back into the ground as this
can damage the root system. A shovel full of compost, sand or anything organic that is handy over the top of the plant will
help keep the plant safe until spring when it can be replanted into the ground properly.
Choosing Healthy Spring Flowering Bulbs
spring flowering bulbs is one of my favorite things to add into the landscape. Choosing healthy bulbs is important. Most bulbs,
tubers and corms should be firm (not mushy) when handling and free of any large spots or mold. One exception to this rule
is the grape hyacinth or Muscari because the bulb is fairly soft.
A pointed tip always faces
up when planting, however, with many bulbs it is hard to figure out which is the top and which is the bottom. If at all in
doubt, plant the bulb sideways and nature will take over. Using bulbs that naturalize such as Narcissus, Lilium and Muscari
are good for perennial gardens. Plant short-lived bulbs like Tulips in areas that can be re-planted or an annual garden so
as not to disturb the perennial roots every time they need to be replaced. Crocus and Gallardia (snowdrops) are wonderful
planted in drifts in a lawn. Again, be sure to water the area well into the fall for a good head start.
the newly planted bulbs from animals that will eat them over the winter months is tricky business. Cages can be used to protect
the bulbs underground from voles, squirrels and chipmunks but attention must be paid to the size holes in the cage as smaller
animals can get into them. A coffee can with the top and bottom cut out will work or sharp pea stones placed around the bulbs
will deter many voles from digging in the area. Deer are another big problem with gardens, however, unless the plants are
toxic, a deer will eat just about anything when it is starving during the winter months, even bark off trees. Daffodils, Lily-of-the-Valley
and Snowdrops are a few spring flowering bulbs that deer will not eat because they are toxic.
Planting Shrubs, Trees and Planning Ahead
be given attention by placing some good compost over the bottom canes and the grafted area near the bottom for protection.
Roses are heavy feeders and the nutrients will slowly feed the plant through the winter months. Once the Rose starts to send
out new growth in the spring, uncover the canes carefully.
Planting trees in the fall is very good. The tree is going dormant
and can concentrate on growing new roots instead of starting new growth above the ground and keeping leaves healthy. Proper
planting is important for the tree to be healthy for a long life. The hole should be two times the size of the root ball or
pot that the tree is currently planted. A mixture of peat moss, compost and good soil should be slowly placed back into the
hole after the tree has been planted and water added. This will help keep air pockets from forming around the roots. Remove
any burlap, wire or plastic from the root area before planting. The tree has a “flair” at the bottom of the trunk
and this should remain above the ground. A tree planted too deep will struggle. When the hole has been completely filled in,
tamp the area gently, do not use a foot to push the soil down. If any support is used, be sure it is removed after six months
to assure the tree can support itself.
Good Planning will assure that your landscape with be its best next spring. A beautiful show after
a long winter is a most rewarding sight not only for the gardener but to all who are lucky enough to see the show!
A Blooming Jewel for Winter
Streptocarpus caulescens or cape primrose is a beautiful and unique plant that can be grown indoors on a bright
windowsill in winter. This plant will bloom profusely all season long if kept in the proper conditions. It has
oblong, green textured leaves with fine hair that will hang over the side of the pot while a most delightful bonnet-like flower
stands on a taller leafless stem. Hybridizers have made these plants into double-petal and two-toned jewels that will cease
to amaze one all winter long with its endless energy. Bright pinks like the S. ‘Pink Surprise’ and darker red
varieties like the S. ‘Cherry Pie’ with a velvet like 1 ½ inch blooms are there to cheer and take away
the winter blahs.
Dr. Ralph Robinson, Owner
of Robs Violets, New York will tell you how beautiful and interesting the Streptocarpus is. This plant is great for the winter
and will tolerate cooler temperatures a bit more than it’s cousin, the african violet. Robinson is
a breeder of the world famous ‘Bristol’ series of streps in a rainbow of different colors. Not only does his greenhouse
grow the Streptocarpus, they specialize in hybridizing and are well known for their breeding of the ‘Ma’s’
and ‘Rob’s’ series of african violet hybrids. Their website has nice selection of the Bristol series as
well as other varieties to choose from at www.robsviolet.com. His plants are shipped in nursery pots and are a very fair
price. A collection of 10 plants will run about 30.00 plus shipping and handling.
To grow these easy to care for plants, use an african violet mix to pot up the plant or make your own loose porous
potting mix by blending 2 parts sphagnum peat moss to 1 part vermiculite or perlite with 1 part soil and 1 part clean sand
all mixed together. Streps prefer small pots for growing which will encourage more flowering. “Keep soil the moist but
not wet or what we call, happy feet” as Dr. Robinson says. Be careful not to let the plant completely dry out as the
plant shows stress quickly. Try not to let the pot sit in water as the plant also resents constant wet
conditions and may cause root rot. Streps will do well on a south or southeast-facing window in the winter or a place that
receives bright sunlight. 12-14 hours under grow lights are also fine to keep this plant happy and in bloom. In the summer,
the plant needs to be out of direct sunlight or the delicate leaves may burn. Cool temperatures don’t seem to bother
this plant and it likes a house that keeps the thermostat down and will flower well all through the winter months. Fertilize
with an african violet food, peter’s houseplant food or almost any fertilizer for house plants cut down to 1/8th
of its strength. Use this mixture each time the Strep is watered. This will keep the plant fed and in a healthy condition
over the winter months. Try not to splatter the leaves with the water mixture or it may cause burn spots on the leaves. If
a single leaf gets very large or shows signs of brown edges, cut it off at the base with a sharp blade or shears to prevent
bruised leaf edges. This helps to promote flowering and keeps the plant neat and tidy. Cape Primroses may go dormant or stop
growing if left to dry completely out. Try not to let the soil become too dry in-between watering
For The Love of Roses
Valentines Day at hand, the colors one chooses for their better half, sweetheart, friend or significant other has a special
meaning. Historically, the Rose has been around for millions of years. Archeologists found rose petals in fossils that are
said to be 35 million years old. Cultivation of the rose may have begun in China some 5000 years ago. They were so valuable
in the seventeenth century; rose water and roses were used as money or bartered for other valuable items.
In Catholicism, a red rose represents the Virgin
Mary. Latin Christians used the red rose to represent martyrs. During the renaissance, rose gardens were
created for lovers as well as a devotion to the rosary. In Greco-Roman culture roses represent the season of spring, beauty
and love. American Indians used roses in their weddings and for medicinal purposes while Romans believed that pink roses represented
pain, suffering and death.
What Shade of Love To Choose?
Or Not… Hmmmm?
A red rose is a universal symbol of how much in love one is to the recipient. This made giving them for Valentines
Day so popular. The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
A fresh single red rose expresses a passion for
another as well as respect and courage. An unattractive dried out shriveled rose means the affair is over. Rose
buds represent youth and beauty which is a wonderful surprise for a daughter or young love.
A single white rose is a symbol of spiritual love, purity, virginity, humility, innocence, secrecy,
charm, spiritual unfolding and silence. A white rosebud means a young girl or too young for love. White roses that are past
their bloom will send the message that you did not make an impression on the other person.
A single yellow rose represents freedom, joy, “welcome back”, gladness, caring, and
jealousy, a decrease in love, friendship and infidelity. Bouquets of yellow roses are perfect to send a
stand for gentle grace, gratitude, appreciation, admiration, happy love, perfect happiness, gentleness and sympathy. Dark
pink roses say “Thank You”.
Peach colored roses give the meaning of immortality, modesty, sympathy, sociability and friendship.
Did You Know?
George Washington was a rose breeder for which the Martha Washington rose is named. In October 1985, the Senate passed
a resolution that declared the rose as the National Floral Emblem of the United States.
Have a loving and happy Valentines Day! --TPW