Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When should I dig my gladiolus bulbs?

When should I dig my gladiolus bulbs?

As you probably know, "glads", as they are sometimes called, are native to Africa, Asia and southern Europe. Though cold hardy from USDA climate zone 7 through 11, they can be grown practically anywhere in the United States. In northern zones, they can be grown as inexpensive summer annuals, or they can be dug, stored over winter, and replanted in spring when danger of frost is past. In southern zones, they can be left in the ground and should come back year after year.

Gladiolus corms should be left in the ground until their leaves turn brown. Frost might brown them, or they might brown all by themselves by late summer.

Begin digging by loosening the soil on both sides of the row. Lift the corms gently. Take care not to dig too closely to the corms so as to avoid damaging them with the spade or garden fork.

Remove the foliage, leaving very little if any at the tops. Spread the corms in a dry location exposed to full sun for a day, then remove them to an airy location out of the sun to dry further. You may spread them on layers of newspaper. Some gardeners construct tables or trays with mesh bottoms for drying. Such structures can serve to dry other bulbs and corms after harvest. Stir the corms to allow all sides to dry, especially during damp weather. You may even expose them to an electric fan. Dried soil should fall away during the process. Remaining soil should be brushed off before final storage.

During cleaning, the corms may be inspected. Those that are damaged or diseased should be discarded.

Must-Have Plants: Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold'

Achillea 'Coronation Gold'

Must-have plants are among the best for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold', Fern Leaf Yarrow,

Flower Color: Golden yellow

Bloom Time: June to September

Foliage: Herbaceous, gray-green, fragrant.

Height/Spread: 30 inches to 36 inches x 18 inches to 24 inches.

Climate Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Condition: Well-drained to dry, average to poor, pH 6.1 to 7.8

Features: Drought tolerant, deer resistant, fragrant.

Uses: Xeriscaping, massed planting, naturalizing, cutting gardens, butterfly gardens, herb gardens, borders.

Comments: Perennial Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold', also known as fern-leaf yarrow, produces long-lasting golden yellow blooms from June to September. Foliage is herbaceous, gray-green and fragrant. Plant height is 30 inches to 36 inches.

'Coronation Gold' is recommended for USDA climate zones 3 to 9. Plant it in full sun to partial shade. 'Coronation Gold' prefers soil pH 6.1 to 7.8. Space plants 12 inches to 15 inches apart.

Achillea tolerates poor soil and drought conditions. 'Coronation Gold' is great for cut flowers, and is easy to dry for arrangements. Yarrow is wonderful for massed plantings, naturalizing or for mixed perennial plant borders, and is superb for herb and butterfly gardens. It is deer resistant, too.

How to move shrubs to a better place in your landscape.

I want to move some shrubs to a better place in my landscape. Can you give me some helpful hints?

You didn’t say how large the shrubs are, or the kind. I’ll assume they’re small enough for a couple of people to manage with hand tools. I’ll give some general instructions regarding kind.

If you’re in no hurry to move them, I suggest you root-prune them to develop a more concentrated mass of roots near the base of the shrubs. To do that, you only need to take a nursery spade and slice downward into the soil in a circle around each shrub. By slicing through roots, you will encourage roots to branch within the circle. A three-foot diameter should be sufficient. After slicing, leave the plants in place for a few months. Be sure to fertilize and irrigate your shrubs within the circles.

It’s best to move them from late fall to early spring when they are dormant, or at least when not in an active growth stage.

For specific instructions on digging and transplanting, it is best to refer you to instructional videos. Since I haven’t created any on the topic myself, take a look at this one on How To Ball and Burlap Dig A Tree. Following that, view How To Plant A Ball and Burlap Dug Tree.

I hope this helps.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sheep's Fescue - A Natural Beauty

Ah! Consider the pastoral life of sheep, wandering wherever they may and ruminating on the beauties of nature – mostly the grass.

Unfortunately, many people don’t think often about the beauty of grass except in lawns and golf courses. Gardeners are discovering, however, that hundreds of grass species stand out as ornamental beauties.

Sheep’s Fescue (Festuca ovina var. glauca) is one of them. It is native to many parts of Europe and Asia. I’ve but one inkling of why it was called Sheep’s Fescue; sheep seemed to like it.

The most common form is green. Leaf blades are stiff, wiry, and grow in dense, evergreen clumps six inches to twelve inches tall. The flowers are white, light and graceful. Sheep’s Fescue became most popular, however, when blue-bladed forms were discovered.

Sheep’s Fescue is popular with gardeners because:

  • It’s beautiful;
  • It thrives in USDA climate zones 4 through 10;
  • It grows in full sun or partial shade;
  • It’s drought-tolerant;
  • It grows in poor soil;
  • It requires very little maintenance.
Consequently, it is perfect for xeriscaping, massed planting as ground cover, low borders, accent planting, edging and container gardens. You can’t say all that about your typical lawn grass.

With lovely plantings of low-maintenance Sheep’s Fescue, you might find yourself ruminating more on the beauties of nature.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Gardens of Havre de Grace

Garden in Havre De Grace

Havre de Grace (pronounced: Have-ruh-duh-Grayce), Maryland is a small town you should visit. Located at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, Havre de Grace has retained its historic charm though it has long been beside heavily-traveled routes along the Eastern Seaboard. It was formerly known as Harmer’s Town, named by the settler – Godfrey Harmer – who established it in 1658.  The Lower Susquehanna Ferry first crossed the river in 1695.

The Marquis De Lafayette visited several times while traveling up and down the coast to encourage American patriots and fight alongside them. It was he who suggested that the proposed city along the banks “should be called Havre de Grace” meaning “Harbor of Grace.” So it was.

Though small in size, Havre de Grace was proposed to be named the capitol of our new nation. It lost the distinction by one vote to the swamp along the Potomac.

Havre de Grace became a terminus of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal in 1839. The Underground Railroad route ushered slaves to new-found freedom in nearby Pennsylvania.

Nowadays, U.S. 40, I-95 and U.S 1 carry lots of traffic nearby. It’s amazing that so many people pass without knowing about the jewel of a town just down the hill.

As proudly noted on the Explore Havre de Grace web site, listed it among the Best Small Towns in 2014. Rightly so. Interesting shops and restaurants, museums, special events, walking tours and gardens satisfy tourists, and of course there’s the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. Walkers can enjoy it from the Promenade. 

Havre de Grace Promenade

One particular feature of this part of the Chesapeake is the area known as the Susquehanna Flats. Millions of tons of sediment are deposited at the mouth of the river into the bay covering thousands of acres. Rich with submerged grasses, The Flats attract many species of wildlife, especially fish and waterfowl. Fishers and hunters follow.

Canada Geese

Havre de Grace is famous as the Decoy Capitol of the World. There’s no better place to learn about the history of hunting waterfowl and the decoys that attract them than the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum
Havre De Grace Decoy Museum

No matter your interest, a good walking tour can begin just about anywhere. Park your car where it’s legal and start strolling. That’s what I did. Follow me as we view landmarks and some of the gardens of Havre de Grace.
Concord Point Lighthouse
Concord Point Keeper's House

Concord Point Park
Raised beds in the making.

Peonies in bloom

Variegated boxwoods

Magnificent Fagus sylvatica purpurea
Gordonia alatamaha

Acer palmatum dissectum atropurpureum
Cornus kousa in bloom

History is best lived in.
Lovely clematis in bloom
Small, effective landscape planting
Hosta - America's favorite perennial.

Iris germanica
Quiet street scene

Old Bayou Hotel - Hot Spot of the Jazz Age

Rhododendron in bloom

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Monday, August 24, 2015

My crape myrtles are covered with black on the leaves.

My crape myrtles are covered with black on the leaves. It won’t wash or wipe off. What is it and how can I get rid of it? Will it kill my crape myrtles? 

The black stuff is called sooty mold or sooty mildew which includes several species of fungi that thrive in honeydew. Honeydew is a sticky secretion from the bodies of aphids, whiteflies, scale insects and similar pests.  Honeydew reminds me of tiny droplets of corn syrup spray. Wherever it falls – on other plants or even your walkway – sooty mold will appear.

It’s futile to try removing the existing mold on leaves, but you can prevent it from appearing on new ones. Get rid of the insects. You’ll get rid of the mold. Shop your local garden center for insecticides labeled for the target insects. If mold occurs on ornamental plants, I prefer products containing systemic insecticide/fertilizer combinations. If applications are begun early in the season, you may prevent insect and sooty mold infestations all summer long.

Sooty mold will not kill your crape myrtles. However, the black film does interfere with exposure to sunlight, which is essential to photosynthesis. Repeated infestations can weaken your plants.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My creeping phlox died. What, if anything, can be done?

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

I planted creeping phlox in May. I lost some within the first few weeks. I figured I would loose a couple, however every one of them died. I'm not sure why they died, the flower bed has a sprinkler system and it waters early morning and late evening. I thought phlox was a hearty plant. What, if anything can be done? Thank you!

I'm sorry to hear that your creeping phlox didn't survive. You said that they were watered twice per day. I'm sure your phlox drowned.

The soil condition for Phlox subulata should be well-drained to dry. The sun exposure should be "full sun." You didn't say whether they were planted in full sun. Should you think about planting phlox again, make sure they get full sun. You'll also need to reduce the irrigation significantly. Otherwise, I recommend you consider groundcovers that will tolerate moist soil and partial shade.

Lysimachia, for example, thrives in full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3 through 10 in moist soil. Because it needs consistent moisture, partial shade is recommended in the hottest climates, though heat itself is not the issue. Recommended soil pH ranges from 5.6 to 7.5.

Acorus gramineus thrives in moist to wet soil in partial shade to full shade.

Carex grows in wet to very moist soils but prefers evenly moist, well drained, loamy, sandy or clay soils. It may tolerate shallow standing water for awhile, but never dry soil. Depending on the species, they like partial to full shade. Some tolerate full sun.

Mazus reptans produces blue or white flowers. It is cold hardy in USDA climate zones 4 to 9, thriving in consistently moist soil in full sun to partial shade. Some protection from the sun is appreciated in very hot climates. Recommended soil pH is 6.1 to 8.5. Plants spread rapidly, rooting as they go. Small, plug-like portions can be dug and re-planted elsewhere.

These are but a few suggestions. I hope this helps.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Must-Have Plants: Blue Pacific Juniper

Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific'

Must-have plants are among the best plants for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific', Shore Juniper.

Flower Color: Not applicable.

Bloom Time: Not applicable.

Foliage: Evergreen, blue-green, needle-like.

Height/Spread: 6 inches to 18 inches x 36 inches to 48 inches.

Climate Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Sun Exposure: Full sun.

Soil Condition: Well-drained to dry, average to poor, pH 5.1 to 7.8.

Features: Drought tolerant, deer resistant, salt-tolerant.

Uses: Xeriscaping, massed planting, ground cover, erosion control, coastal gardens.

Comments: Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific', also known as Blue Pacific Juniper, is a big improvement over the well-known Shore Juniper because the height is shorter and foliage color is better. Blue-green foliage is needle-like. Mature height is 6 inches to 18 inches. 'Blue Pacific' spreads to 48 inches.

'Blue Pacific' prefers full sun in USDA climate zones 4 to 9. Average well-drained garden soil is fine. It adapts to a wide variety of soil types and pH levels, and is salt-tolerant.

Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific is an excellent ground cover solution for medium to large areas. It performs well in coastal gardens, and dry, sandy soils. 'Blue Pacific' is superb for erosion control.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Leucojum - White Violets of Spring and Summer

Leucojum aestivum in Peaches Garden

Leucojum species, members of the Amaryllidacea family, are native to Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus region, but you will find them naturalized almost everywhere. L. vernum is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9. It blooms late winter to early spring. L. aestivum is hardy in climate zones 4 to 9. It blooms late spring to early summer. Of the two, L. vernum is shorter, growing 6 inches to 12 inches height. L. aestivum grows from 12 inches to 18 inches.

Leucojum comes from Greek words "leukos" and "ion" meaning "white" and "violet." The Latin word "aestivum" translates "summer."  "Vernum" means "spring."

"But," you might say, "they're not violets." True, if you're thinking of Viola species or African violets. But, African violets aren't Violas, either.

By now you've learned I like to study names (onomatology), wondering why things are dubbed so.

Apparently, Leucojum was named "white violet" because there was a time when "violet" was applied to many adorable plants and daughters. Peter Lauremberg (26 August 1585–13 May 1639) aka Petru Laurembergius, in Apparatus plantarius: de plantis bulbosis et de plantis tuberosis, opined, "Vox Violæ distinctissimis floribus communis est. Videntur mihi antiqui suaveolentes quosque flores generatim Violas appellasse, cujuscunque etiam forent generis quasi vi oleant."

Not knowing much Latin, I went to Google Translate which rendered: "The voice Violets distinctissimis flowers is common. It seems to me the old sweet-scented flowers men generally Violas appealed, irrespective of the kind that would force oil." There you have it. However, not even that ended my wonderment.

There's also the issue of common names. L. aestivum goes by Summer Snowflake, Dewdrop and Snowdrop. L. vernum is called Spring Snowflake and St. Agnes Flower. Why these?

Galanthus species are also called Snowdrops. Leucojum and Galanthus (meaning "milk flower") bloom near the same time and they do look somewhat similar, therefore that may explain the shared names.

So, when Wordsworth wrote,

"LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
          But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
          Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
          Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
          Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
          The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
          Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
          Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
          Shall soon behold this border thickly set
          With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing               
          On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
          Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
          Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
          And pensive monitor of fleeting years
!" - To A Snowdrop,

there's no telling which he was musing about.

Why St. Agnes Flower? Probably in memory of Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304), a virgin–martyr, patron saint of chastity, virgins (traditionally females, but not necessarily so), holy innocents of both sexes, gardeners (who are always pure in heart), engaged couples (men and women who should be chaste until their weddings), and rape survivors.

Tiffany, in her Family At The Foot Of The Cross blog, wrote, "Some people refer to snowflakes as St. Agnes flowers because she holds a winter feast day." Snowflakes are usually considered to be pure, until they touch the ground. Leucojum seldom bloom as early as the Feast of St. Agnes (21 January), but if you look into an open Leucojum flower and use a little imagination, you'll see the shape of a snowflake.

Voilà! or maybe Violà!

Plant Leucojum bulbs in full sun to partial shade, in slightly moist to well-drained garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8. Planting hole should be 4 inches deep or 2-1/2 times the height of the bulb. Space the bulbs 4 inches apart.

Leucojum species are good for cutting, bulb gardens, perennial borders, container gardens, rock gardens, naturalizing, theme gardens, shade and woodland gardens.

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