Archive | February 2019

Don’t discard that ‘Easter’ Lily

10171-00-baki_20170106135448Every year, ‘Easter’ lilies make their way into people’s homes and places of worship but so many of them end up on the scrap heap when you live in the northern area of the U.S. Don’t take the Easter part of the name too literally. This best-loved member of the lily family, Lilium longiflorum, actually blooms in mid summer when it has its druthers. But since more than 11 million are forced into early bloom and sold all potted up and decorated, this lily and Easter are forever entwined.

Forcing a bulb takes a toll, and it can’t be counted on to force again for the following Easter; but given a year to rest up in your garden, Easter lilies can recover and will bloom next summer and for years to come.

So gather them up (they look much better when planted in groups anyway) and care for them inside until after the last frost date in your area. Knock each bulb out of its pot, trying hard to keep the soil around the roots. Plant it with the base 8 inches deep in a sunny, well-drained spot, leaving the foliage and flower stems intact. The flowers will be finished, but the shiny green leaves should remain all summer; they play an important part in providing food to help the bulb regain its strength.

Planting the lily so deep allows the part of the stem that is below ground to develop roots and protects the bulb over the winter. Unlike many other bulbs that grow roots only from the base of the bulb, L. longiflorum is a stem-rooter, growing roots along the buried stem as well as from the bulb’s bottom.

Don’t cut the stalk down until the leaves turn yellow, and fertilize once a month between now and then. A 3-inch winter mulch is a good idea.

Next Easter will come and go without a peep from your lilies, but the mother bulbs will be hard at work, developing new flower stems for the Easter-in-July show.

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House of Flowers

db0d06842a922723a63238991937df5dA fun project to do with your children or grandchildren: make a house of sunflowers and morning glories.

Sunflower houses are not an exact science, which is a great part of their charm. All you need are the flower seeds and a patch of open ground that gets plenty of sunshine.

Choose a sunflower that grows tall but also makes some branches, rather than an old-fashioned type that goes straight up and then hangs its heavy head. ‘Giant Sungold’, ‘Soroya,’ and the pale-flowered ‘Moonwalker’ are good choices. Make sure the morning glories are the climbing sort; it’s hard to beat good old ‘Heavenly Blue’ in this situation.

Wearing gloves, use agricultural lime to draw the shape of your house on the grass. (Don’t make it too small. When the plants are full grown, the walls will be about 3 feet thick.) Following the line, remove a foot-wide strip of sod. Enrich the exposed soil with some compost and well-rotted manure.

After all danger of frost is past, plant sunflowers about 3 feet apart, arranging a triangle of seeds at each location and spacing the seeds in the triangle about 2 inches apart. (Don’t forget to leave space for the door!)

When the sunflowers have four leaves, cut off the weaker extras. You should now have single, strong plants, spaced evenly around your perimeter. Wait until they’re 2 feet tall, then plant morning glories every 4 inches or so in the spaces between them. When the vines sprout, use thin twigs to train them toward the sunflowers.

Resist the temptation to fertilize. Sunflowers that grow tall too quickly are prone to falling over; and morning glories that get lots to eat make leaves instead of flowers.