Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Forcing Bulbs

I’ve decided to try to force some narcissus (‘Grand Soleil d’Or’) and hyacinths (‘Pink Surprise’) to bloom next spring. I’m aiming for an early March bloom.

I’ll be planting them in soil in a day or two. Right now they are in the refrigerator. The temperature has been a little warm outside – not staying consistently below 50 degrees.

I'll keep them in the garage after they are planted and keep them in the dark. I plan to bring them in from cold storage about the middle of January. I’ll put them in a cool room out of direct sunlight until they sprout. Then I’ll move them to a sunny window. That’s my plan, anyway.

Some expert information on forcing bulbs from Purdue and Clemson University Extensions.

I haven’t followed directions to the letter. I will be away in the beginning of January so I’m trying to adapt the directions to what is possible for me.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Won’t it be nice when the daffodils and hyacinths are blooming in the garden again like the pictures here? (Approx. 160 days 'till outdoor blooms.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Venus Flytrap


A young friend of mine requested a Venus Flytrap for her 9th birthday. You gotta love that kind of kid.

I remember having one when I was young. I was fascinated. I caught flies to feed it. Sometimes, I gave it a little raw hamburger. Sometimes, I teased it with a toothpick just to see the trap snap shut.

Venus Flytrap Dionaea muscipula is native to the sunny bogs of coastal North and South Carolina. They eat spiders, flies, caterpillars, crickets and slugs. Movement against the trigger hairs inside the specialized leaves cause them to close. The digestive juices inside the leaf dissolve the insect. In 5 to 12 days, the leaf opens and the exoskeleton is washed away by rain or blown away by a breeze. (Sounds like a Halloween story.)

According to The Garden Helper Fly Trap Tips:

… the growing medium must stay moist, but never soggy.

… Flytraps will consume 2 or 3 flies each month.

… purchase small crickets at a local pet shop as food or dead flies and insects may be used

… Never, never, never feed your Flytrap hamburger. The fat content in burger will be fatal to your plant..

… Artificially springing the trap… drains the plant's energy. If this is done too often, the trap head will become less sensitive and possibly die.
I’m glad I didn’t read Garden Helper when I was a kid.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Now you see 'em.
Now you don’t.
The first frost happened here on October 20. The annual canna dig-out started shortly after. I used the same process as my November 10, 2007 post.

The pile of rhizomes is large again this year. I will only keep the bunch in the foreground. The others will be given away to anyone who comes to get them. The rest will be compost. I don’t have room to store more than one container full of rhizomes.

The beautiful coleus are all brown and shriveled. They will be added to the compost.

Before frost.

After frost.

I removed most of the zinnia, cleome, impatiens and other annuals. I’ll get the marigolds and petunias later this week. The pots have been put away. I trimmed the holly. I’ll clean up the prickly leaves that fell on the ground.

It’s a little early to put the roses to bed. In the next few weeks, I’ll trim the long branches, clean up and remove all the fallen leaves. I’ll spray the canes with my baking soda/water solution. Then I’ll cover the base with a hefty layer of mulch. According to some experts, this should be done after the ground freezes. But, if I wait for the ground to freeze, the mulch is also frozen. Did you ever try to shovel frozen mulch?

My biggest incentive for all this fall cleanup is spring. There is too much to do in spring. Any cleanup I can get done in fall, will give me more time for other jobs in spring.

There will be plants to divide and plants to move. Ornamental grasses to cut and dig out. The brick garden edging that didn’t get moved this year will be started next spring (I hope). Then there’s mulch and compost to spread. Weeding will begin anew.
I always eagerly await the garden work after a cold, dark winter. Can you imagine?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Walk in the Park

I run for hope, I run to feel
I run for the truth for all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

Cancer survivors paraded through the crowd to Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run for Life”. An emotionally charged group of over 5,000 women cheered and clapped. They were there to celebrate cancer survivors and support those battling breast cancer.
The Women’s 5K Classic was held this morning in Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, PA. A beautiful park and glorious fall weather set a backdrop for runners and walkers. A sea of pink filled the paths of the parkway. I felt a bond in the fight against breast cancer.

Volunteers cheered, music blared, high fives passed along lines of runners and walkers. Today was one of those feel-good days - full of hope and friendship.



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - October 2008

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts a monthly Bloom Day. On the 15th of each month, garden bloggers post comments. The comments link to pictures of gardens posted on their blogs. It's a great way to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

This is my first ever post for Bloom Day.

Since we have not had a killing frost here, annuals as well as fall perennials are blooming. The past weeks have been cool and sunny. Perfect fall weather.

As I worked on fall garden cleanup, I was surprised at the number of blooms I found. But, I know it won’t be long until we’re raking leaves. First frost in zone 6 is usually between the 15th and the end of October.

I've posted some pictures of my blooms.

Marigold ‘Safari Yellow’ & Petunia ‘Rose Madness’


Aster Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome’ - A dark, spectacular aster prone to a little mildew. This plant was "pinched back" effectively by some critters this year.

Coleus - may be ‘Solar Sunrise’ or ‘Atlas’

Coleus 'Pele' - I know it's not really a bloom but the colors are great!

Pink impatiens ‘Super Elfin Lipstick’ and Bloodleaf. A re-seeded impatiens 'Bright Orange' pokes out of the right side in the picture.

This is the same area last year with an orange theme.

Zinnia 'Painted Daisy' - in need of dead heading.

Volunteer mum
Cleome - sometimes called Spider plant. My grandmother called them 'Lectric Light Plants because they reminded her of a chandelier.
Another yellow mum volunteer

Also blooming:

Garden Phlox ‘David’
Zinnia 'State Fair'
Rose ‘Blaze’
Sweet Alyssum
Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud’
Hardy Geranium ‘Splish Splash’
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
Japanese Anemone pink and white

Wow! That's quite a lot.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shade Garden

My shade garden is mediocre at best. Under a French lilac in front of 70 ft. hemlocks, the hostas get smaller each year. Asters, silver mound, mums and numerous annuals have met their demise. Planting bulbs is as bad as digging through a tangle of bureaucracy. The root mass is quite thick. The daffodils, columbine and Japanese anemone seem to hold their own. Astilbe survives in a low spot that gets a little more water.

Two years ago I started thinking seriously about this garden. Did I want a garden survive or thrive? This happened the same year that I decided to be more environmentally aware. I have never used a lot of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. I decided to use even less or none. The plants would have to survive or thrive on their own with only organic methods. I have soaker hoses in all the beds. They were not turned on this year.

I did a soil test in the shade garden last fall. pH is near optimum neutral at 6.8. The soil is below optimum in phosphate and potash and way above optimum in magnesium and calcium. I admit I added phosphate and potash. I easily slipped back into my “only a little” mode. I don’t know if I would do that today and risk chemicals washing into streams.

Then, in a V8 moment, I started doing what my grandmother knew to be right - if you want a good garden, improve the soil. I’ve added mulch twice each year. I’ve sprinkled compost tea in the area several times. My only fertilizer is fish emulsion. I’ll add compost in spring. This is an ongoing, never-ending job.

I have had the privilege of reading a preview of Doug Green’s “Shade Gardening” ebook. It is a clear, succinct and no-holds-barred book about what it takes to have a thriving shade garden – good soil, light, water.

Now I have to decide how much I want to fight Mother Nature. Plants need light (even in a shade garden), good soil and water. None of these is readily available under most trees. I believe there is enough light under the lilac for shade plants. I’m doing my best to improve the soil.

But, by Doug’s calculations, I will need about 3 inches of water a week. I’m not sure that I’m willing to do that. I may have to let this garden just survive.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sitting in the Garden

As this year’s garden winds down, it’s nice to have a place to sit and enjoy what’s left.

The weather has been cool and sunny – perfect for a few minutes reflection on what has been done and planning what needs to be done. Add a steaming cup of coffee for a relaxing break.

One of my favorite sitting spots is the sunny bistro table and chairs on the little patio next to the rose bed. There is a great view of most of the garden from there.

The bench in the scented garden provides a more secluded spot. A sweet little hideout. It’s a great place to plan next year’s garden.


Saturday, October 04, 2008


Fall air chills - highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s - over 5 inches of rain last weekend. And it’s time to trim the iris.

I didn’t do much maintenance on the iris this summer. I usually try to keep the dead or dying leaves cleaned up. That didn’t happen this summer. So, it was really messy. I cut all the leaves back to 4 to 6 inches.

The yellow iris is in a sheltered spot on a very slight slope. I have never had a problem with winter heave. I use a very light layer of mulch and that seems to be enough.

Although iris should be divided every 4 years, I have never divided this iris. For some reason, it seems to do OK.

Amy Stewart at Garden Rant in October 2 post “Throw the Bums Out“ says, “The thing with irises is that you're supposed to divide them every four years, and one way to remember that is to divide them during presidential election seasons.”

That seems like a great way to remember to divide, if that’s your plan. The incessant political propaganda on TV should be enough to drive you outdoors.

More iris information from Penn State Solution Source


I was tagged by DreamerJean in my October 1 post comment.

Here are the rules from Jeannie:

“If you have been tagged, here is what is requested: 1. Link your tagger and list these rules on your blog. 2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. 3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a post on their blog.”

Here are my 7 fairly boring facts in no particular order.

1. I never participate in chain letter type posts but I’ll make a partial exception in this case. (Jeannie is too nice to ignore.)
2. I worked for many years as a horse trainer and riding instructor.
3. I need a passion in my life.
4. I have all-grown-up and wonderful twin daughters and a wonderful long-time husband.
5. Growing up, I was a tomboy. I could never stay clean once I was let loose outdoors.
6. I am a tall person in s short body – 5’ 2” to be exact.
7. I hate to dust.

Sorry, no tags.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Belgian Mums

The mum revolution happened without my notice. Developed around 2001, the Belgian mum may be the perfect fall flowering plant. The cold hardy varieties never need pinching back and bloom profusely in a mounded form.

An October 2001 Mississippi State publication is titled “Belgian mums rock the nursery industry.”

According to Jann Eline of Hickory Grove Greenhouses in North Catasauqua, “Belgian mums are an exciting new type of chrysanthemum with hundreds more blooms per plant than traditional mum varieties. An exceptional feature of the Belgian mum is its durability. Belgians have more flexible stems which mean they’re less susceptible to breakage in windy or exposed areas. They do not need to be pinched back during the growing season to maintain their naturally shorter, fuller shape.”

I don’t have any of these super mums. I usually forget to pinch my traditional mums back up to July 4. Or I don’t pinch them back enough. They need to be propped up by bloom time. I think it's time for a trip to Hickory Grove to get some Belgian mums for my garden.
It sounds like a mum dream come true.