Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

Mums the word Monday, October 18th, 2010

There are a few last spots of color to greet the cooling air and longer nights. Mums and asters continue their show with a rainbow of colors. Asters tend to come in cooler colors – purples, blues and pinks. Mums pick up the warmer spectrum – orange, burgundy, yellow, red and white. I have a purple aster and a burgundy mum.

My aster has gotten a disease I’m afraid, the leaves are turning yellow and rusty with some black spots and the flowers are mangled looking. I believe it is either a rust or fungus of sorts. A quick Googling of this has made me decide it is not “aster yellows” which tends to change the color of the flowers and can affect more than just asters, like coneflowers. I’ll have to watch it and make a point to check margins, veining and where on the plant it stops or starts.

My mum is has pretty blooms on top but is quite scraggly toward the bottom. To keep perennial mugs in better shape I should have cut them back mid-summer. This causes the plant to keep a more compact and less floppy shape. Of course I’m on the shoulda-coulda-woulda side of things so I’ll make a note for next year. For now, I’ll just cut a few for a cute arrangement on my desk.

Fall/spring bulb basics Monday, September 20th, 2010

I’m confused, should bulbs planted in the fall be referred to as “fall bulbs” because of when they are planted or “spring bulbs” because of when they bloom?

Regardless, I just planted mine to welcome the start of autumn on Wednesday. This year I decided to put in a few crocus. These and snowdrops tend to be the earliest bloomers. I love my mother’s sunshiny yellow ones that are the first to greet the warming rays of early spring. I picked up a cheap-O bag of 30 and popped them along the very front of my south and west facing beds along the house. Regardless of what type of fall-planted bulb you choose, there are basic tips for each.

  • Plant them at a depth of 2-3 times their height. In spots that stay bare or get really cold, deeper is better.
  • Plant them with the pointed in facing up and the button (roots) end facing down.
  • For a natural look dig a wide whole and plant several a few inches apart depending on size
  • For a pop of color in the lawn, lift a small chunk of sod, plant bulb and replace sod – use very early bloomers so by the time that first lawn mowing comes around the blooms will be spent and leafs starting to wither
  • Plant alongside later risers – plants that don’t get going until full summer – that way these plants will cover the withering, brown leaves of the spent, spring-blooming plants
  • If your spring-bloomers aren’t as prolific as they once were it usually means they need to be divided. Just dig and space out now and/or share extras with friends
  • There are bulb cages you can get if you have a frisky squirrel or other bulb-munching rodent around
Gardening workshop, Aberdeen SD Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The Prairie Partners’ Gardening with the Masters fall workshop will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Dacotah Prairie Museum, 21 S. Main St.
Within the day will be four individual workshops: starting seeds, growing garlic, hardy roses and raised bed/square foot gardening.
Cost: $5 and payable at the door. Treats and refreshments will be served.

Crunch, munch and collect Friday, June 18th, 2010

Cerelia's spring veggies garden

So far my daughter’s garden has been getting the most action – harvest wise that is. The second wave of spinach is hopping up, the lettuce are starting to form heads – I keep thinning as they grow. The rainbow swisschard are starting to reach up to the sun and most recently the peas are popping. The carrots are steadily growing and will have the longest existence in the bed except for the errant Trollius we planted in it last year, when it only held flowers. We’d forgotten about it but my daughter found it early in the spring, dug it up and replanted it in nearly the same spot. The happy golden-yellow flower makes me smile every time.

We’ve made salad, dressed sandwiches with the leaf lettuce and spinach, sauteed some swisschard with olive oil and salt and the latest was a tuna casserole amended with chard and peas, which really put a freshness and crunch to a usually mushy, but comforting classic.

Another thing I’m looking to do this year to keep expenses down is to harvest some of my own seed (pea/bean/etc.). I’ve clipped a few articles on it so I’ll have to dig those out soon. In most cases you let the seeds ripen and start to dry on the plant, then cut off the seed head and lay it on newspaper or paper towel to let them dry more thoroughly. Next loosen the seed or pop open the pea/bean and store in envelopes in a cool dry place or in your fridge.

I’m so glad for the regular rains still but I need to NEED TO get some weeding done. I broke down the other night and weeded one bed in the dark – I only lost one little swisschard plant and a whole lot of crab grass.

Hello June Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Bearded iris, poppy, columbine in front garden

Way back in March, did you ever think June would get here? But at least us gardeners know a little something about patience, right?

Now that the veggies are tucked in their beds it’s time to move on to other things . . .  besides weeds – which have been fairly easy to pull so far with the intermittent storms we’ve had. Anyway, next I plan to take stock of my front garden bed which is quite full and askew as far as plant heights go, and divide some things and swap some things to also help out my side garden beds which are sparse and have a long way to go in the interest category.

What I have to work with is an abundance of bearded iris, allium and daylily in the small front bed and quite a few daffodils and hyacinths from the side bed. The first three are medium to tall plants flowering from June or later that maintain a green grassy foliage of either an upright stately nature or soft and ribbon like. The last two are short to very short and early bloomers – now having spent their glory days in the sun, they’ve taken on a yellow cast and have fallen and withered on each other like a plate of off-looking limp noodles. I’m hoping by swapping these plants around I’ll have more consistent flowering and the taller foliages will camouflage the shorter ones as they wither away.

Transplanting now might not be ideal but our days are sticking to the 70s with a possible shower and now is when I’ll have the time. I can also still tell where the daffodils and hyacinth are but if I wait much longer their foliage will have completely disintegrated and I’ll have a hard time dig the individual tubers. I will wait until the iris are through so I don’t interrupt their bloom time and the daylilies haven’t shown buds yet. So far there is a Japanese painted fern under some of these, I’m wondering what other treasures I might find among the overgrowth. But I dare not take too much from my front bed because it’s one of the few places that needs little weeding – there’s just no room for them.

Allium Friday, May 21st, 2010


Allium is the onion family. My decorative allium are blooming right now. They tend to show up after the daffodils, early tulips and hyacinth have all wilted and just before my bigger iris shoot up bloom spikes.

The orb-shaped head is actually a cluster of many individual little purple flowers.

Globemaster allium

They look just like a larger version of a chive flower. They should be planted like other bulb flower, in fall for spring-time blooms. They need little in the way of division, are adaptable to different soils and hardy to zones 3 or 4. The decorative ones don’t give off anything in the way of an oniony smell. They are great for cutting and my globemaster had to be since it bent right over on its 30″ stalk. (I think it had help) I’m just glad that it’s the first year I actually go a bloom from it. Previous years it sent up a bud shoot only to be killed off by frost. They take a while to open but once they do their unique bloom adds an ethereal note to any perennial bed. Definitely a good one to try.

Perennials put in place Saturday, May 15th, 2010

I’ve picked up a handful of perennials in the last couple weeks. The first one I won by drawing at a Parkview Nursery event where they were introducing some new species. I let my daughter pick my prize from a variety of perennials. She went with the biggest and pinkest:

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Twist-n-Shout'

  • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Twist-n-Shout’ is a lace cap hydrangea vs. mophead. It’s blooms are clusters of small and tiny petaled flowers. In more acidic soil a periwinkle color comes through the blooms but in alkaline (which we have) the blooms will undoubtedly be pink. If you want to try for bluer blooms adding aluminum sulphate will change the soils pH to more acidic. this is easier to do if you leave your hydrangea in a container instead of straight it the garden. I planted mine on the east side of my house so it will be protected from the hot afternoon and evening sun. I added a good dose of my home compost to the planting hole. This plant will be a heavier feeder so I’ll probably need to add more until mid-summer.

Lychnis 'Orange Gnome' Maltese Cross

  • Next I picked up Lychnis ‘Orange Gnome’ also known as Maltese Cross. The dark green to burgundy leaves and electric orange flowers will add a lot to my almost completely green perennial bed. Most of my flowers now are purple so I wanted to add some pops of other colors here and there to up the interest. It’s stalks were tall and top heavy so I braced it with a cut-off tomato cage so it doesn’t just flop to the ground. I planted it on the south side of my house between catmint and a perennial grass so it’ll be a mid-height plant in that area. Hopefully it will tolerate a full day’s worth of sun, which is what the tag says. I can also pinch it back if I’d like a more compact growing habit.

Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

  • Another color pop I purchased is an Ajuga with dark purple/black scalloped leaves. It’s brighter dainty purple/blue blooms are very cute. It’s a ground cover that should be highly adaptable to most conditions – as state on the accompanying tag. We’ll see. It also is planted on the southside in the front of my perennial border between some sedums and liatris.
  • I was able to find an Ash Leaf Spirea. I have high hopes for this one. Spirea are highly adaptable shrubs

    Sem Ash Leaf Spirea - Sorbaria sorbifolia.

    that are great for foundation planting and xeriscaping.They are low maintenance and black-thumb proof. This particular one is of interest because of its unique foliage. limey greens and pink tips with a fern-like quality.

Super excited to have these specimens in my garden! Even more excited for a spell of good weather.

Lovely lilacs Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

As stated in an earlier post, lilacs are hitting bloom time a little earlier this year. I still have strong daffodils and the lilacs are opening their sweet buds.

Last night, while watching Garden Line, a caller had asked how to get lilacs to stay fresh in a vase. Well, the panel looked at each other and little suggestion was given. Like with most flowers, cutting them in the morning (Dr. John Ball’s suggestion) and plunging them immediately into water will help.

Lilacs have woody stems. Mashing the ends allows for more water absorption.

I’ll elaborate: lilacs have deciduous, woody stems, unlike other cutting flowers like daffodils, daisies and zinnias for example. Woody-stemmed flowers benefit from having their ends mashed. This allows more surface area to take up more water – a key in keeping any cut flower fresh.

Other cutting flower pointers:

  • Save those packets of vase water fertilizers that come when you get a purchased bouquet and use a little of that in the water.
  • Overnight your vased flowers in the fridge and bring them out again in the morning.
  • Change the water daily with fresh, cold water.
  • Cut the flowers from their plants, then recut them under running water before plunging them immediately into a water-filled vase.
  • Recut the stems every couple days as they will heal over hampering water absorption.
  • A tiny amount of bleach can keep your vase water clear.
Resist being the early bird Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I made my first nursery trip of the year this past weekend. It was wonderful just feeling that greenhouse heat and humidity while the winds whipped up a frenzy of dust and chill outside. I did purchase 3 items which I’ll talk about later but I wanted to use this post as a simple warning. Aside from cold-weather veggie crops, trees, shrubs and very-hardy perennials, please put off any planting for a while longer. We are still more than a week from the last average frost date and even then it won’t wait to hurt a little longer before filling up your flower and garden beds.

Soil temperature is a huge factor, especially with warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and melons. You may have good-sized transplants that can weather a few cool days but it can really stunt their progress to have cold ‘feet’. I might wait closer to June before setting my transplants out. Transplants set out earlier can actually be set back weeks when it comes to actual production, so resist until the soil is warmer – 60F if you want to get technical. I had a grandmother that didn’t start her veggies until June and she always seemed to have a bumper crop.

Pots, baskets and raised beds will be more susceptible to temperature changes. Annuals might be in full bloom in the nurseries and garden centers but that doesn’t mean they can weather a night outside yet. If you are eager to get some pops of color outside, plant your annuals in baskets and make sure to bring them in when temps dip below 55-60F. Same goes if you fear your favorites will be picked over at the stores if you wait until they can actually spend the nights outside.

There are a few things you can do to start a little earlier in the garden:

  • Use bottles with bottoms cut off and caps removed to shelter new transplants for a week or two. Make sure to remove them if it does get hot outside or you could risk cooking the baby plant.
  • Mulch heavily
  • On an especially cool night, cover your tender plants or ones that have just set buds with cloth, overturned buckets, plastic bags or blankets.
  • Cover the ground around plants with plastic to make it heat up quicker – cut ‘Xs’ where you want to put your transplants
Bloomin’ good time Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Apricot flower - even if the recent frost hampers fruit production the pretty blooms were worth it for aesthetic value

What I believe to be apricot trees were in full bloom and now have dropped most of their petals in a shower of pale white and pink. I believe they are apricots as apposed to plums because of their ridiculously giant thorn-branches. Only wild plums seem to be labeled  as having thorns in my research. Only true way to tell is if they fruit.

Pink and purple tulips give a monogmous color display

Bluebells and hyacinths are a great spring addition with their blue colors.

Bluebells in April

Quade picks some grape hyacinth

Yellow corcus

Crocus are one of the earliest harbingers of spring. They can come in blues, purples (like our state flower the prairie pasque) whites, yellows etc. My garden is definitely missing these so I’ll have to make note for a fall purchase – the best time to plant most early-spring bulb/corm bloomers.

If you are noticing that your spring bloomers, especially hyacinth, crocus or daffodils aren’t blooming like they used to, it just means that they need some dividing. Once they are done blooming (waiting till fall would be best) you can divide them and spread the extras to other parts of your garden or share with friends. Just mark their specific location now as they may be hard to locate in a perennial bed once your other plants have filled in over their wilted leaves.