Eremurus-Foxtail Lily

This time of the year it is always a treat to see the Eremurus blooming. Because we have them planted in an area under the walnut trees where not much else is growing, they seem to shoot up  out of nowhere.

Foxtail Lilies in bloom
Foxtail Lilies in bloom

As you may or may not know, it is nearly impossible to grow most plants under Black Walnut trees, but the Eremurus seems to live there just fine.

These plants are native to Tibet where the summers are hot and dry but have good fall and spring rainfall. This often describes the weather in this part of the country as well.  It’s no wonder that Foxtail Lilies do well here.

Our Eremurus are the yellow variety (bungei) and range from 3 to 4 feet tall.

From a distance, the hundreds of tiny flowers on the stalk merge together to give them their unique look.

Eremurus Flowers
Eremurus Flowers

It’s when you get closer that the individual flowers become apparent.

Foxtail Lilies are grown from tuberous roots that in themselves have a unique shape, they sort of remind me of star fish.

Fall is the time when the roots are planted, so you have some time to track some down and get them ordered.  We got ours from K. van Bourgondien and Sons  (dutchbulbs.com).

There is one thing I would recommend when planting your Foxtail Lily this fall, and that is to mulch them well. They are a little weak getting started the first fall.  However, after that, they thrive here in southern Michigan.

So, put Eremurus  on your fall ” must-buy list”.

Bob

Longer Lasting Lilac Blossoms

It seems that the Lilacs are producing many more blooms than normal this year. Apparently the long, cold winter didn’t bother them at all.

This means there are so many more blossoms to cut for inside the house. Inside you can enjoy a close-up look at the flowers and smell their wonderful scent!

We have three varieties of Lilacs on the property to choose from; white, dark purple and traditional Lilac color. Each one has a slightly different smell. Placing all three together in a vase like this gives you a really complex aroma to enjoy.

Now, Lilacs differ from many other cut flowers in that they  flower on woody branches. This changes how they are handled after cutting.

The more water a flower stem takes in, the fresher and longer lasting it stays. To accomplish this, gardeners have discovered a little trick for cut Lilacs.

Start by snipping the stem to its final length, one that fits the size of vase. Then take a pair of pliers and crush the cut end of the stem and place the stem immediately into the water. This helps water to move up into the stem where it is most needed.

Cut Lilacs are not the longest lasting cut flower by any means, but by using this simple trick, you can enjoy them for a bit longer.

Bob

Easter Lily Care and Re-bloom

 

I have found that there are two different groups of people when it comes to caring for an Easter lily after Easter.

One group of  simply let their Lily “run its  course” and then toss it away after it starts to fade. Most of these folks probably water the plant once or twice and then let it go.

On the other side of the equation is a group of people who would like to keep their Lily blooming as long as possible and maybe even save it for next year. Since you are reading this post, I’ll assume you belong to the second group and are interested in getting the most out of your Lily.

Easter Lilies like to be in a cool bright spot when they are inside a house. So, if you have a choice where to place it, choose the cooler spot away from any heating vents jut as long as it gets light from the window. Don’t worry too much about it though.

More important than location is watering. Since most Easter Lilies come with a pot wrapper, it is easy to kill a Lily with too much water.  The wrapper will trap water and not allow it to drain away, this will cause the roots to become water-logged and eventually die. This is the most common mistake people make in caring for their Lily. Be sure to dump out the excess water that drains into the wrapper after watering.

Cut off the blossoms as they fade. Once all the blossoms have come and gone, just care for it like a house plant. Feel the soil with your finger to get an idea how dry it is. The top of the soil should look and feel dry before watering again. 

I also like to pick up the pot and feel how much it weighs, a dry pot will feel quite a bit lighter than a wet or damp pot.

Sometime around Memorial Day, plant the Lily into a flower bed or other area with good soil and sunlight.

Sometimes the existing stalk will die back. When this happens, the Lily bulb will send up a new shoot and continue growing through the summer.

Then in the following year your Lily will surprise you with blossoms in July. They always surprise me because I usually forget that I planted them there until they bloom.

They don’t naturally bloom during Easter, we have to give them special conditions in a greenhouse to force them to do that. Forcing Easter Lilies is a complicated procedure. We force over 200 Lilies every year. It’s fun but also a challenge because Easter Sunday changes from year to year!

There’s no Federal law saying you have to save your Lily (at least not yet ;))  but it is easy to do and a lot of fun.

Bob

Bloom Another Day

We put up the 4th week of our spring Exhibit at the Gardens.  My volunteers look forward to doing it even though it is chaotic.  We have to take out the past weeks old faded bulb flowers and put in new fresh ones.  Seeing  the cheery  daffodils, beautiful tulips, elegant bleeding hearts and vibrant  hyacinths that one of the other horticulturists grows for the exhibit, is so refreshing at this time of year.  Especially on a gray darkish day like we sometimes have in March.  It really gets our hopes up for spring!

If you receive or buy a potted tulip or hyacinth or daffodil for Easter, you can save it and plant it outside to bloom another year.  The simplest way is to plant the whole pot in the ground after danger of frost is passed.  Another way is to care for the bulb foliage in the pot, giving it light fertilizer and partial sun.  Once the foliage has turned yellow , cut the leaves off and take the bulbs out of the soil and store in a mesh bag, hanging it in a dry place like the garage.  Tulip bulbs are especially prone to rooting  if they stay too moist all summer.

Then replant the bulbs in the fall. Bulbs that have been forced used up a lot of energy so they will not flower again the next year.  It may take 2 or 3 years of growing and storing energy from the sunshine before they have enough energy to bloom again.

A lot of tulips actually don’t come back well.  Species tulips and old varieties are more likely to come back again.  Hyacinths usually come back and bloom again and daffodils come back very well.  You can even get daffodils to naturalize very well.

Enjoy your beautiful flowers this Easter and then enjoy them for years to come!

Happy spring,

Judy

You can have your landscape and eat it too!

Anyone can grow fruits or vegetables in their own backyard.  No special garden plot needed!

Edible plants  can be tucked in a number of spots in an existing landscape.  The only requirement is enough sun which in most cases is 6-8 hours of direct sun.

Any vegetable can be grown but some look better than others, so they can be put in more noticeable spots.  Some plants that are being used for landscaping are swiss chard, parsley, everbearing strawberries, lettuce, kale, cabbages, peppers and many kinds of herbs.

Best results can be obtained if the soil is improved directly around the edible plant. Also, during dry spells, they will probably need supplemental water.

Blueberries and dwarf fruit trees such as apples, pears, peaches and plums are a good choice even though they need a few early season sprays.

Grapes on a fence or arbor can add quick privacy.  There is even a hardy Kiwi vine for our hardiness zone.

Just think of walking out into your own yard in the summer and picking peaches off your own tree.  Nothing tastes better!

bye for now,

Judy

Is Your Jade Plant Thisty?

This time of the year it’s very easy to over-water house plants.

There is a lot less light in the winter,so most  plants including Jade Plants, will not be as actively photosynthesizing and won’t need as much water.

Over-watering has symptoms similar to under-watering.
When you give a plant too much water, it can cause the roots to become water logged and eventually die back. When the plant loses its roots, it can’t take up enough water, hence, the apparent symptom of not enough water. The well-meaning person taking care of the plant gives it even more water making the problem worse.

A Jade Plant  is able to store water in its fleshy leaves and stems. When it dries out to the point of needing water, the leaves become soft and flexible.

If you think your Jade plant needs water, gently squeeze a leaf or two.

Jade Plant

If it feel soft, it needs water. If it’s still firm, which in the horticulture trade is called turgid, no water is needed. The plant shown above needs no water, the leaf feels pretty firm.

Dry Jade Plant

This next plant’s leaves are soft and flexible, that means this plant needs water.

This squeeze-the-leaf  method works only on Jade Plants and other plants with similar fleshy leaves such as sedums and aloe.

Enjoy your indoor gardening!

Bob

Caring for Your Poinsettia

Our Poinsettias turned out wonderful this year.

The color and size were outstanding.

We grew about 250 poinsettias of various colors: marble-pink, burgundy, white, and of course, red.

We started giving them out about mid-December and sent the last ones out on the 23rd.

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

To begin with, keep in mind that most poinsettias die from over-watering. Your home probably has different growing conditions than the greenhouse from which it came, so your plant will be less actively growing and therefore need less water.

Let the surface of the soil dry out some 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 off.  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 possible, chose a spot that has bright light but not direct sunlight.

Keep your Poinsettia away from cold drafts or from heat vents that may blow hot air  directly on the plant.

Don’t worry about fertilizer for your plant, it won’t really need much until spring. A half-strength dose of water soluble 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.  They were bred for color and  not for hardiness as a house plant.

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

Bob

Once in a Lifetime — Agave Blooming in the Greenhouse

We have a very interesting botanical event happening in the greenhouse right now. One of our Agave plants is blooming.

Agave plant in full bloom
Agave plant in full bloom

This plant is about 3 or 4 years old and has decided to bloom after all this time.  This is actually fairly quick for an Agave though.  Their other nick name is “century plant” , so-called because of the seemingly long length of time it normally takes them to flower in the wild.

Agaves are native to the southwestern part of this country and “south of the border down Mexico way”.  The ‘Blue Agave’ variety that grows in the Mexican state of Tequila is used to make… you guessed it…Tequila.

I don’t know what variety this one is since Judy rescued it from going into the compost bin at the Botanical Gardens.  At that time the plant was just a small  one inch diameter “bulblet” with no name.

Agaves only bloom when they have stored enough energy in their roots and leaves. How many years this takes depends on the species.  After blossoming and forming seeds, they die, trusting that the seeds will carry on the next generation.

Even though this Agave of ours is planted in a small 8 inch pot, the flower stalk is 10 feet tall! It has been alternately ignored and well-tended throughout its life.  It couldn’t have had life too hard since it took quite a bit less time than a century to bloom. We had a few last year that were in 6″ pots and their stalks reached nearly 6 feet.

This Agave is planted in an 8 pot. Note the swollen bulb-like stem.
This Agave is planted in an 8″ pot. Note the swollen bulb-like stem.

I counted over 120 flowers on the flower stalk! Wow! Each flower will produce a bulblet that will go on to produce another plant. I’d say that is pretty good odds that the next generation will survive.

Our Agave produced a ten foot tall flower stem containing over  120 flowers. I can barely reach the lowest set of flowers.
Our Agave produced a ten foot tall flower stem containing over 120 flowers. I can barely reach the lowest set of flowers.

The new seeds will go into a 20 inch pot.  I wonder what will happen…

Bob

Lilies in the Graveyard

With Halloween right around the corner we are seeing all kinds of scary stuff; themes relating to goblins, jack-o-lanterns, graveyards…

We have a  graveyard here!  It’s not the scary  Halloween type of graveyard, but a flower bulb graveyard.

In this area outside, we plant all of the lily bulbs we grow out of season in the greenhouse that are left over from various projects or those that get returned to us after they are done flowering.

I just can’t bring myself to throw them away or even compost them, so I give them a  “decent burial” in the bulb cemetery that’s located in an out of the way corner. Since it used up most of its energy blooming while in a little pot, some times it takes a couple of years for a bulb to build up enough strength to bloom again. I’ve been doing this for at least 4 years.  It’s always fun to see what new flower will be blooming from one year to the next.

Even  now, during Halloween season, the old Easter Lilies are still blooming!

They seem to have shook off the frosts we have had so far. It won’t be long until they finally give in to the cold weather and take a long winter’s nap.

Bob

Aloe vera re-potting

The Aloe vera plant has been popular for decades as a balm or salve used to treat minor burns, cuts, sunburn and other maladies. Every household should have an Aloe plant as part of their first-aid kit.

You can do your part to spread the good news about Aloe by dividing your plants and giving them away to folks who don’t have an Aloe yet. It’s very easy to do.

As an Aloe plant grows, it forms small plantlets or off-shoots around the base of the main stem. They may or may not have roots. These can be gently pulled apart from the main plant and transplanted into new pots.

In this post I’m using an old Aloe that needed to be renewed. The same process is used for making divisions of an Aloe that might not be this far gone. Here we go…

Start by getting a potting mix together. I like to use  fairly coarse potting mix to which I add sand, fine gravel and other grit to help the mix drain water well.  Aloe doesn’t like to be in a soggy pot.

In this example, where the plant has grown too long between re-potting, the Aloe has developed a long, undesirable stem with a lot of dead leaves.

Fix this by cutting the stem an inch or so below the green active part of the plant. Peel off all of the “onion skin” until you reach the stem itself. Also, remove  any dead or dying leaves. The stem has dormant root buds that will sprout to form new roots to support the newly separated plant. A dormant bud can be seen just below the pencil point. If you rub your finger over the stem, the bumps you feel are the root buds.

Then just fill a pot (be sure it has a drain hole in the bottom) with your potting mix and insert the prepared Aloe cutting into the soil. Water the new plant and that is it.  You now have a new Aloe plant that will soon take hold in it’s new home. Here is An Aloe I transplanted a few weeks ago.  Look how nicely the roots are growing.

This brand new plant  can now be given away as a gift.  Everyone loves Aloe !

To use Aloe as a treatment for an injury, cut a leaf from your plant. Slit the leaf open and apply the jelly-like juice to the affected area. You’ll feel relief immediately.

It’s medicine you can grow right on your window sill!

Bob