Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

Flowers attract hummingbirds

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Bees and butterflies are fun to watch but, I think hummingbirds are the most fascinating visitors to a garden. No matter how many times you see them, they never fail to surprise and amaze.

Hummingbirds use a huge huge amount of energy in relation to their size.  Sugars found in flower nectar is source of this energy. Everyday they eat their body weight in nectar so they are constantly on the lookout for nectar-producing flowers.

You can encourage hummingbirds to visit your yard by planting the flowers they’re looking for.

They prefer red and orange tubular flowers but will feed on most brightly-colored flowers with nectar. There’s plenty of flowers that meet these requirements.

Hummingbirds like tubular flowers such as petunias and nicotiana.

Hummingbirds like tubular flowers such as petunias and nicotiana.

Here’s a partial list to consider: monarda, red salvia, agastache, honeysuckle vine, fushia, verbena, phlox, butterfly bush, daylily, trumpet creeper, cypress vine, coral bells, heirloom petunias, penstemnon, morning glory, bugle weed, red-hot poker, and many others.

Like people, hummingbirds also need protein and fats in their diet. They get those nutrients by eating gnats, mosquitoes and other small insects. So, having an area of wild plants — weeds — nearby will provide space for these small insects to grow.

Finally, hummingbirds need trees and shrubs to provide a place for them to nest and to escape from predators.

If you look around, you’ll probably see that most of the things hummingbirds need are already in your neighborhood.

Planting the right kind of flowers is the best way to get hummingbirds to hang out in your backyard.

Bob

Cool weather keeps spring-flowers bulbs blooming

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Many gardeners have been enjoying the cool spring this year — especially those who spent days and days last fall planting spring-flowering bulbs.

In years past, I planted as many as 20 thousand tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth bulbs in one fall season. For many years I considered 10 thousand bulbs to be a light planting year. It took my helper and me several weeks to get those flower bulbs into the ground before winter arrived.

Then, I would wait until spring to see the results of all of that work. Most of the time spring progressed normally and the bulbs put on a show that lasted for weeks. Every once-in-a-while a week of summer-like weather would occur in early spring. All of the bulbs would shoot up out of the ground, bloom, and die-back all within about a week’s time. How disappointing those springs were — one week of spring-flowering for six weeks of hard work in the fall.

Cool spring temperatures keep bulbs flowering much longer.

Cool spring temperatures keep bulbs flowering much longer.

 

This year we’re having a nice, slow start to spring. Our bulbs are slowly opening and their flowers look like they will stay fresh for sometime.

Spring bulbs are the best reason to hope for a cool spring.

Bob

Saving your Easter Lily to plant in your landscape

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Thousands of Easter Lilies are flowering in homes all around our area. Most of them get tossed out after they are done blooming.

A small percentage of people plan to keep their plant hoping to have it bloom next Easter. “That ain’t gonna happen”, as one famous pawnbroker on TV likes to say. There is an art and science to getting Easter Lilies to bloom exactly on Easter weekend. And that is way beyond the skill of nearly all gardeners.

You can however, save your lily and have it bloom in your garden next summer. All you need to do is keep it in good shape for the next six weeks or so.

The most common problem you are likely to see is water-logged roots. This happens when the foil pot wrapper is left on the pot. Since water has nowhere to drain, it collects in the foil and pot, drowning the roots. So, pour out any extra water from the foil wrapper or take off the wrapper completely.

After flowering, plant your Easter Lily outside.

After flowering, plant your Easter Lily outside.

Keep the plant in a cool, bright spot in your house so that the leaves can do their thing with photosynthesis.

In mid-May or after the last frost, plant the lily into a flower bed in full sun. Water and fertilize it along with the rest of your plants.

Then, next summer and each summer after that, your lily will bloom and become a permanent part of your landscape.

Bob

 

Saving Cannas

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The cannas had a nice long growing season but the hard frost brought that to an abrupt end.  Now, a gardener has to make a decision – do you dig and store them, or let them freeze and buy new ones next year?

Since I have such a hard time throwing out plants, I always dig them and find room for them somewhere.

It’s easy enough to save them for planting next spring.  First cut the tops off, I like to leave a couple of inches of stem attached to the roots.  Then dig the rhizome clumps out with a garden fork.  Set them in a garage or some place away from freezing temperatures and let them dry.

Move the clumps — soil and all — to a spot where they won’t freeze.  They should keep until spring.  Some gardeners like to crate-up and pack cannas in dried peat moss.  That allows more efficient use of storage space, especially if you have a lot of rhizomes to deal with.

To save just a few Cannas, store them with the garden soil left on.

I usually let potted cannas stay right in their pots over winter.  It takes up more space but takes less time than removing them from the pot.

There are reality TV shows about hoarding things and animals;  do you think they’ll ever do one about hoarding plants?  Maybe the Michigan Film Office will be interested in that idea.

Bob

 

Saving Some Bugleweed

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Not long ago I stopped by a neighbor’s house to see how her remodeling project was going; she’s putting the house up for sale.  She asked me about a row of plants growing on the north side of the house.  Her plan is to remove the flowerbed and plant the area into grass.

Years ago, a previous resident planted a row of Ajuga — sometimes called Bugleweed.  The foliage on these plants is a beautiful bronze color.  I’m not sure of the variety, it’s probably ‘Bronze Beauty’.

Ajuga multiplies by sending out runners (stolons).

The plants are doing quite well in the shady area.   Ajuga has a tendency to spread but these are behaving themselves and staying put in the garden bed.

Ajuga makes a great ground cover growing best in rich moist soil, which describes the growing conditions of this bed of Bugleweed.  They will adapt to drier and less fertile areas if they have to.

In mid-spring, blue flowers appear on Bronze Beauty.  Other varieties produce purple or white flowers.

The owner says these plants have to go.  Normally, I’d wait until spring to move them but, since I have no choice, I’ll have to dig them within the next few days.

With some snow cover this winter, they should over-winter just fine.

Bob

 

 

Bee Balm

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

While walking past a clump of Monarda the other day, I noticed the plants were humming with insects.  Even though the flowers were past peak blooming, all sorts of bees were buzzing around.

About half the blooms are left on this stand of Monarda and there are still plenty of bees visiting it.

I took a minute or so to look at the insects and counted at least a half dozen different species of the bee family. There were honeybees, paper wasps and some kind of bumblebee; those were easy to spot. Looking closer I could see other species of smaller bees that I was not able to identify.  It’s no wonder Monarda is called Bee Balm.  Butterflies and hummingbirds like Monarda too.

Bee Balm is a native plant that has found a place in the garden.  Normally, in the wild, it grows in damp areas.  In the garden, it grows fine in a flowerbed; you just need to give it a little extra water during dry spells. If you have a wet area that gives you problems, Monarda is a good solution.

Even though Monarda is a perennial, it is best to wait until spring before dividing and moving a clump to your garden. Fall planted Monarda will often winterkill.  I have grown it from seed; it is fairly easy to start and is a cheap way to get a lot of plants.

It grows to a height of three or four feet, has red, pink or purple flowers depending on the variety, and takes care of itself once it is established.

Monarda is also used as an herb.  In the herb garden, it is known by its other two names Bergamot and Oswego Tea.

Planting Monarda is an easy way to add color to your garden while helping our local honeybees and other pollinators.

 

Lilacs

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The Lilacs have really been putting in a show this spring.  They started blooming quite a bit later because of the cool temperatures.  The flowers have been looking fresh longer too.

Lilacs have been flowering profusely this spring.

Some of the early varieties have started to fade, but the later varieties are still looking fine.  A big bouquet of Lilacs can really brighten up a room.  Also,  cutting flower stems is just about the best kind of pruning you can do for your Lilac bush.  Cut off as many stems as you need; you won’t hurt the plant.

Keep your flowers fresh by stripping off the leaves from the stem.  Also crush the base of the stems before placing them into water.  A pair of pliers works well for small stems; use a small hammer for larger stems.

It’s a very good idea to snip off all of the old flowers once your Lilac has finished blooming. Removing all the faded flowers will help stimulate the plant to produce even more flowers next year.  The old flowers never fall off, they end up forming brown panicles that makes the shrub look a bit messy.  So, that is another good reason to remove them.

Don’t worry if you are not able to get to snipping off the flowers, your Lilac will still do just fine without any attention.  That is another reason why Lilacs have been so popular since colonial times.

There is also a discussion on crushing Lilac stems here.

Bob

Yellow Iris in the Flooded Garden

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Much of our garden is under water.  You can see the mulch under the water where the potatoes grew last year.

Last year's mulch where the potatoes grew.

It looks like we may not be able to work that area until Memorial Day.  That’s OK though  since we can change our original plan and plant  the warm weather crops into that area later on.

I was really hoping to expand the garden further to the north this spring, but that will have to wait.

Along with some moisture tolerant weeds, a clump of Yellow Iris is the only thing thriving.

These Irises were started from seed a few years ago.  I’m not sure exactly what species this is.  It very well may be the species that has been causing trouble in other states by becoming invasive.

Here in our garden it is behaving itself.  The clump has slowly grown in size from  four small plants to a clump about three feet in diameter.

This clump of Iris is thriving in the flooded part of our garden.

They’ll put on a nice  of flowers for us a little later in the season.  I’ll post some photos later when they blossom.  I’ll also get a chance to identify them to see what variety they are while they are in bloom.

Bob

Poinsettia Care

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Every year around Christmas time I get asked by at least two or three people, “what is the best way to keep my Poinsettia alive and looking well once I get it home? ”

Poinsettias don’t really need a whole lot of special treatment but they do need just a little bit more care than a typical house plant.

To keep your poinsettia going for as long as possible you need to follow just a few simple guidelines.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that most poinsettias die from over-watering.

Your home probably has different growing conditions than the greenhouse in which your plant was grown so it will be less actively growing and therefore needs less water. That being the case, let the surface soil dry out just a bit before watering. Then water the plant thoroughly until water flows out of the bottom of the pot.

Any water remaining in the foil wrapper has to be emptied out otherwise the roots will become water-logged and eventually die. With fewer roots the plant will not be able to sustain itself and will prematurely die. That is the main reason why many people cannot keep their Poinsettia alive more that a couple of weeks.

If you have a choice, pick a spot that has bright light but not in direct sunlight. Keep your Poinsettia away from cold drafts or heating registers where hot air will blow directly on it.

Don’t worry too much about fertilizer for your plant, it won’t really need much until spring. A half-strength dose of water soluble houseplant fertilizer once in a while should be adequate.

Also, keep in mind that poinsettias weren’t meant to last too much longer than the Christmas season. Poinsettias are selected for color, not for hardiness as a house plant.

By following these guidelines you should be able to enjoy your Poinsettia as a reminder of wonderful Christmas memories for many weeks to come.

Bob

Time to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Even though things are slowing down to a crawl in the garden after the frost, fall can still be a very busy time of the year for the die-hard gardener. In addition to all of the garden and yard clean-up there’s still plenty of planting to do especially if you look forward to flowers in the early spring.

The only way to get Tulips and other spring flowering bulbs to bloom in your garden is to plant them right now. Although the choice may be more limited than earlier in the fall, plenty of bulbs are still available in garden centers.

Back when I was gardening professionally I needed to get my bulb order in by July first each year. A lot of planning went into deciding just how many of each variety would be planted and into which garden. So in July, during the busiest time of the regular growing season, I was compelled to come up with a plan about how the garden would look in April.

Since I would plant between 15,000 and 20,000 bulbs a year, my order would be placed with other large orders of bulbs in the summer. Bulb growers in Holland needed to know ahead of time how many bulbs they would have to harvest and ship to the USA. Your local garden center probably placed their order at that time as well.

The bulb planting season actually starts earlier in October. The idea is to get the bulbs into the ground so that they will have time to develop a good root system before winter. You can imagine that with 20,000 bulbs to plant I often was planting well into November and even sometimes into early December. Most gardeners don’t have that excuse and should get their planting done soon.

Bulbs look best planted in clusters rather than in straight lines or as single plants. If you can afford it, large drifts of single varieties make an impressive sight in the spring. You don’t need to plant thousands of bulbs to make an impression, even a small planting near the house can be a real joy after a long winter.

Eye-catching Drift of Grape Hyacinths.

Crocus, Tulips, Daffodils and Hyacinths are the most common spring bulbs that are planted therefore are the most commonly available. Others you might find include Muscari, Anenomes, Snowdrops, Scilla, Allium and others. When buying your bulbs look for ones that are free from mold, discoloration or other signs of rot. Also a healthy bulb will feel heavier in your hand than one that has started to deteriorate.

Larger sized bulbs such as Daffodils and Tulips are planted deeper into the ground than the small bulbs such as Crocus and Muscari. The small bulbs are planted into a hole that is about three inches deep, while the larger bulbs are planted twice that depth. Usually detailed planting information is available for each variety when you purchase your bulbs. Any fertile garden bed will support the growth and development of spring bulbs.

If you never have planted bulbs before, to get you started I have scanned a leaflet from the US Department of Agriculture that describes how to plant bulbs. It contains more detail than I can present here in this blog. Take the time to plant some bulbs this fall then when spring rolls around you’ll be glad you did.

Bob