Tag Archive | garden planning

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.

 

Ornamental Grasses (conclusion)

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Indian Grass

In Part 1 of this discussion of ornamental grasses, we talked about grasses for part-sun, for cold climates, and those that provide fragrance. Today we’ll cover grasses that provide fall and winter interest.

Blades of Color

The most common fall color for grasses is a warm tan, but there are also some that are as bright as autumn leaves. Plant them where they’ll show up: the pale ones backed by dark evergreens, stronger shades where they will blaze against the pebbles of a courtyard or an open sky.

Yellows include many of the molinas, especially Molina caerulea cultivars, and Phragmites australis.

Shading more toward orange and red are the big bluestems (Andropogon gerardii) and switch grasses (Panicum virgatum), especially the variety ‘Haense Herms.’ Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) does double duty, starting out yellow and shading toward orange as the season progresses.

For darker reds, consider Miscanthus sinensis ‘Graziella’, which has warm brown undertones, the purplish Hakonechloaa macra; Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’; and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens.’

Winter Grasses

The best grasses for winter interest are those that are quite sturdy, able to stand up to rough weather, including the feather reed grasses (Calamagrostis spp.), Ravenna grass (Erianthus ravennae), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and those that have decorative seed heads, such as Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and cat tails.

For the prettiest effect, they should be planted in groups of varying heights of where they will be set off by evergreens, garden sculptures, or other structural elements that give them a context. If you just dot them here and there, they tend to look like something you forgot to clean up.

Cutting Grasses Back

In nature, nobody cuts down grasses, so why should we? Well, in nature, the open areas where grasses grow are periodically renewed by the cleansing effects of fire. In the absence of this very efficient remover of dead material, we need to cut back our grasses.

The best time to do it is in early spring, after the grasses have done winter landscape duty but before the new growth starts. Wearing gloves (many grasses have sharp edges) and using hedge clippers if the clumps are large, cut off the dead stalks right above the ground. This will not only open up the plants, bringing light and air to the centers and thus forestalling disease, but it will also remove a potential fire hazard.

Note: Grasses will let you know they need division by flowering less and/or dying out in the center of the clumps. Be on the alert for the start of these symptoms and divide the grasses then. You want to get in there before things get ugly, but there’s no need to divide plants that show no signs of needing it.

Ornamental Grasses – Part 1

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Ornamental grasses add color and texture to landscaping

Frequently overlooked and under-appreciated by most gardeners, ornamental grasses can add beautiful height, texture, and even fragrance. While it is true that the majority of ornamental grasses do best in full sun, a number will also tolerate shade as long as it is not too heavy and their other cultural needs are met.

Grasses for Part Sun

Among the useful grasses or grasslike plants are tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa), millet grass (Milium effusum), Hokonechloa macra ‘Albo-aurea’, variegated lily turf (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’), and ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea var. picta). These vary from about 1 to 3 feet tall. Somewhat shorter are Virginia wild rye (Elymus virginicus), Alpine hair grass (Deschampsia alpina), and blue fescue (Festuca ovina glauca). And quite a bit taller are northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), creeping bluestem (Andropogon stolonifera), bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis), and bush grass (Calamagrostis epigejos), which may range from 2 to 6 feet tall.

Well-Behaved Grasses

One of the common complaints about grasses is the invasive nature of many of them. Anything with runners — ribbon grass (phalaris arundinacea), blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius), and switch grass (Panicum virgatum) are the classic examples — is likely to be a problem. If you’re taken with something that comes without a description, tip it out of the pot and look for signs of runners (underground shoots with upward-pointing tips) before you take it home.

And almost anything with seeds will self-sow, that being what the seeds are for, though some, such as the fountain grasses (Pennisetum spp.), do it more aggressively than others. Be careful of plants described as self-sowing “manageably”; someone has got to do the managing, and that someone will be you. Nurseries are increasingly conscientious about labelling possible invaders, but it’s still best to check with your local extension service before you purchase and plant.

Fragrant Grasses

Several ornamental grasses give off appealing fragrance when their leaves are rubbed or broken. They include lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus), and sweetgrass or vanilla grass (Hierochloe odorata). When dried, sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) is fragrant as well. Sweet flag (Acorus calamus) is a scented grasslike plant, but not a true member of the grass family.

Grasses for Cold Climates

Many of the most popular ornamental grasses are very hardy, including Miscanthus sinensis cultivars such as ‘Morning Light’ and ‘Purpurascens’; midsize favorites like the feather reed grass Calamagrostis arundinacea ‘Overdam’; yellow foxtail grass (Alopecurus pratensis), which seldom grows taller than a foot; and it’s even shorter cousin, A. alpinus ssp. glaucus, a 4-inch charmer with very blue leaves.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum conducted a large study of cold-hardy ornamental grasses and has published the results in North Central Regional Publication No. 573, “Ornamental Grasses for Cold Climates.” Call 952.443.1400 for information about how to obtain the booklet.

 

Now we Reap…

80777823000000_169_1024It’s a cliche, but August really is the month of plenty. Almost everything you’ve sown, planted, and nurtured through the spring and early summer will be coming to fruition now. Daily harvests should include everything from peas beans, carrots, beets, corn, peppers, potatoes, onions, and salads to berries, currants, plums, peaches, figs, and perhaps even early apples and pears. And tomatoes!! Determinate varieties, also known as bush tomatoes, bear all their fruit within the space of two weeks, so August is the month to put up your tomato store for the entire winter — whether you can or freeze them, or make spaghetti sauce instead.

Top tasks for August

  • Harvest your last broad beans and your first corn, plus summer fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, and eggplants.
  • Check French beans, runner beans, and zucchinis every day, and harvest them regularly. They seem to double in size overnight.
  • Pick plums, greengages, and blackberries, and perhaps your first apples, pears, and figs.
  • Sow your last batch of carrots and turnips for this year, plus Japanese onion seeds and spring cabbages for next year.
  • Feed your pumpkins if you want to produce Halloween giants.
  • Dry out garlic, onions, and shallots so that they can be stored for the winter.
  • Check potatoes and tomatoes for signs of blight, and spray in warm, humid weather.

Sow or plant in August

There is not much you can still sow or plant now in time for harvesting this year. Perhaps a few lettuces and salad leaves, and some of the faster-growing roots and leaf vegetables. That’s about it. However, space on your plot should become vacant once broad beans, onions, and shallots are all finished, so you can begin to plant out overwintering crops such as brussels sprouts, spring cabbages, and winter cauliflowers.

August pests & diseases

Vegetables:

  • Carrot flies are laying their eggs again this month. Protect crops with fleece or physical barriers.
  • Slugs and snails still need to be controlled, especially in wet summers and immediately after rain when the ground is damp.
  • Powdery mildews can be a problem in warm, dry summers, particularly on peas, zucchini, squashes, and cucumbers. Regular watering and a fungicide spray may help.
  • Spray potatoes and tomatoes against blight, especially if it’s very humid. If your crop is infected, cut down the foliage and destroy it. Lift potatoes at once — they may still be edible.
  • Water tomatoes regularly to prevent splitting and blossom end rot. Take care not to splash the fruits to avoid ghost spot.
  • Magnesium deficiency is often the cause of tomato or potato leaves tuning yellow between the veins. Spray with a solution of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).
  • Check corn for smut and remove any affected cobs.
  • Inspect peas for caterpillars of the pea moth feeding inside the pods. They will have laid their eggs in June or July.
  • Check for blackfly on globe artichokes, beets, and broad, French, and runner beans.
  • Look under cabbage and other brassica leaves for the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies. Pick them off and squash them by hand, or spray. Keep nets in place.

Fruit:

  • Look for brown rot on apples, pears, plums, and quinces. Remove and destroy infected fruits.
  • Apple bitter pit is caused by calcium deficiency. Watering regularly and spraying with calcium nitrate solution may help.
  • Pheromone traps in apple, pear, and plum trees may need their capsules to be replaced in order to continue being effective in attracting codling moths.
  • Spray plums, cherries, apricots, and peaches with Bordeaux mixture or other copper-based fungicide to treat outbreaks of bacterial canker. Spray after harvesting but before pruning, and spray again next month.
  • Check raspberries, blackberries, and hybrid berries for the small, yellow-brown larvae of raspberry beetles.

Plant Now for Fall Color

Ground covers are a frequently neglected part of garden design. How else to explain the overwhelming use of Vinca minor, English ivy, and pachysandra when so many other choices are available?

Instead of thinking only of very low-growing evergreen selections, broaden your possibilities to include other plants that can be massed to tie together areas of the garden. The relationship between a ground cover and its location and use should determine the appropriate height, not some limiting idea that anything more than 4 inches tall cannot qualify.

Fall color is an important part of garden design, and it should be part of your ground cover selection process, just as it is for trees and shrubs.

Some ideas for ground covers:

 

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Fragrant sumac

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’): The glossy, deciduous leaves, which are aromatic when bruised, turn a fiery orange-red in the fall. The wide-spreading shrub grows to 2 feet tall and works very well, even on a slope, in full sun or partial shade.

Bigroot cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum): This

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Bigroot cranesbill

mound-forming semi-evergreen perennial has leaves with a distinctive medicinal scent that turn reddish in the fall. It grows from 12 to 15 inches tall and spreads well through a thick, rhizomatous root structure. It is easy to grow and is both heat and drought tolerant. Different cultivars have different spring flower color

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Leadwort

Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides): Fall color and flowers occur at the same time. The shiny green leaves turn strawberry tints, then bronze-red in fall, while the cobalt blue flowers last from late summer until frost. Cut back the bare wiry stems in late winter.

Siberian

Siberian carpet cypress

Leaves appear in late spring, just after you’re convinced it is dead. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall. It works well in full sun or shade, but colors up better in the sun.

Siberian carpet cypress (Microbiota decussata): This wide-spreading evergreen grows to2 feet tall, with arching, scaly, feathery foliage that turns bronze after a frost. It’s unusual in that it is an evergreen that tolerates shade. It really is from Siberia, and very cold hardy.

 

 

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Rockspray cotoneaster

Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis): The dark, shiny deciduous leaves turn orange-red, complementing small red berries growing along the stems. This densely branching woody shrub grows from 2 to 3 feet high, spreading to 6 feet. Its arching habit makes it looklike the perfect refuge for rabbits or chipmunks as it covers and cascades down a bank. Lower-growing cultivars are also available.

Lettuce

LettucesWant a dizzying variety of tastes, textures, and forms of beauty? Want ’em quickly and in a small space? Welcome to the wonderful world of lettuces. There are hundreds of varieties available, choices that meet every growing need. But they all break down into four main types:

  • Leaf lettuces. These lettuces do not form tight heads. No matter how large they get, they are always loose collections of leaves, bound together at the base. Leaf lettuces are the quickest to mature and also the best for cut-and-come-again harvesting — just cut only the outer leaves and the plants will keep making more.
  • Butterheads. The heads may be loose or tight, baseball to volleyball size, but they are always composed of leaves that are softer and — if well grown — sweeter than those of other types. Most butterheads are very heat sensitive and produce well only in spring and fall.
  • Crispheads. As their name makes clear, crisphead lettuces form tight heads of very salad-2376777_960_720crisp, juicy leaves. This is the class to which iceberg belongs, but don’t let that keep you from trying it. Homegrown crispheads are delicious; but they do take longer to grow than other types, and they are the pickiest about good growing conditions.
  • Cos. These are the heading luttuces with the tall profile, also known as romaines. Although they eventually come form tight heads, they can be grown as cut-and-come-again, and although they are both crisp and juicy, they are somewhat easier to grow than classic crispheads.

You grow lettuces from seeds, which keep a surprisingly long time. How long seeds remain viable depends not only on the type of seed, but also on how the seed was stored. The combination of warmth and humidity is the biggest enemy. If the temperature and relative humidity add up to less than 100, your seeds will last longer.

When stored under ideal conditions — airtight, in a cold, dark location — lettuce seeds can last up to six years. But as the ideal is seldom met, use this as an estimate, not gospel.

Since lettuce often does poorly in mid-summer heat, it is usually grown as a cool-weather crop: sown in spring and grown through early summer, then sown in late summer and grown through early autumn. But there are many varieties specifically bred to withstand summer conditions, and most catalogs identify them as such.

For best results, try out a few different heat-tolerant selections. All are likely to fare better than spring and fall varieties do in the summertime, but some will probably do quite a bit better than others, depending on the specific conditions in your garden.